Friday, December 21, 2012

A New Approach to Coming Out

So it occurred to me the other day that most of us (gay people, that is) approach coming out all wrong.  Let me use my own experience to illustrate.

I was twenty-six-years-old on the day I came out, and, for the first time ever, I felt pretty good about myself, having the previous night attended my first gay dance (which also happened to be on New Year's Eve 1986).  There, I'd seen and met several sweet and friendly gay men, all of whom helped me look at gay men not as the older, leering creeps who'd come on to me when I was as young as thirteen, but as people just like me.  For the first time ever, I'd been able to relate to gay people, to think they, and I, were pretty decent, because most of them weren't so different from me, after all.  

Armed with, and empowered by, this revelation, I proceeded to tell my mother about myself over the phone.  Needless to say, it didn't take long to become weak and frightened all over again.  While my mother didn't react badly to my disclosure–that is, she wasn't angry, she didn't yell at me and make me feel worse–she was upset, enough to cry, which brought me back to that dark place all over again, of thinking there was something seriously wrong with me.  After all, how many times over the preceding years had I heard that was the case?  And, if there was nothing wrong with me, why did my mother cry?  It was impossible not to believe to the core of my being that my sexual orientation made me evil and immoral and destined for hell.

I think most of us approach coming out from that perspective.  Implied in the way we tell our families and friends about ourselves is the belief there's something essentially wrong with us.  Still, we find the courage to ask for acceptance.  We ask that the love we've come to count on from them, that most of us believe at the time we can't live without, isn't withdrawn.  "Mom, Dad, I'm gay, and I know it's wrong to be gay, but I can't help myself, because this is what I am, and I hope you'll understand and continue to accept and love me anyway, because I really need your acceptance and love right now, more than ever."

We need to put an end to this approach.  When you don't know any better–as any number of gay people, who haven't yet come out, don't–you buy into the misconception that being gay is wrong (believe it or not, there are some parents who would rather their son or daughter be a convicted felon than gay, which I find astounding).  And, while I don't suggest that you be an arrogant or militant gay man or lesbian woman when you come out, telling family and friends to take it or leave it, this is the way you are, and, if they don't like it, they can do you-know-what, I do suggest we approach coming out from the calm and peaceful perspective of knowing in our minds, in our hearts, and in our souls that there's nothing wrong with us, that we're all right, just the way we are.

Just because you're compelled to love someone of the same gender doesn't mean something is wrong with you.  Nothing at all is wrong with you, which anyone, who's been out for years and living his or her life as a fully-realized gay person, would tell you.  How can love be wrong, even if it involves someone of the same sex?  (Please note, I make a clear distinction here between loving someone of the same gender, and being promiscuous, which are not one and the same, and which my moral compass tells me is wrong, regardless of sexual orientation.)

The coming out process shouldn't be so fraught with emotional (and even physical) pain and suffering.  When you, as the gay person, know there's nothing wrong with you, you're in a better position to accept yourself, to be patient with those you love, who have difficulty with what you've revealed about yourself, and to help them on their journey to understand, accept, and love you, just as you are, as you rightfully should be.

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