I “came out” while living in Los Angeles at age 27. Older than most folks I know. There was no party and I didn’t time it with National Coming Out day… Just me, a telephone and one, very long, awkward silence between me and my mother. It was as if everything stopped after I said the words, “Mom, I’m gay.” She didn’t respond right away, or even a few seconds later. Total silence. I finally asked if she’d heard what I said, to which she replied, “I heard you. I don’t believe you. But I heard you. I love you no matter who you think you are.” After attempting to convince her that it wasn’t a phase, I wasn’t confused and it wasn’t because the men in LA are “weird” (her words, not mine), I realized that I would just have to agree to disagree with her.
Coming out to my mother wasn’t done in a haphazard way. I had been in a relationship with a woman for almost 6 months (my first) and the feeling of hiding was beginning to weigh on me. My parents live on the East Coast, so there was no danger of one of their friends’ kids seeing me out partying in West Hollywood with my beautiful queer family. I could remain closeted for as long as I wished since gay marriage is illegal and that wouldn’t be happening any time soon! A month or so prior to this admission, I had had another awkward conversation…this time with my dad. My dad and I never talk about relationships or who I’m dating, so him leading me down this road felt strange and forced. I was multi-tasking, putting on my makeup for my workday while chatting and so wasn’t truly engaged in this talk. I hadn’t realized that I had been giving him very vague answers to questions such as, “Have you met a man you’re interested in? Are you dating someone seriously? Anyone you’d want to introduce to your mother and me?” Finally, my dad asked me very pointedly, “You are looking for the right man aren’t you? I mean, you wouldn’t be looking for a woman, right?” Being totally unprepared for these questions, my response was very reactive… I said something like, “What difference would it make, man or woman? If I met a woman and I’m in love and she’s really good to me, and I’m happy, wouldn’t you just want me to be happy?” No. He wouldn’t. And he didn’t think that was the right response. He threw the Bible at me from 3,000 miles away and said he’d be praying for me. I abruptly got off the phone and headed for work; visibly shaken and emotionally drained.
National Coming Out Day, for me, is a reminder of the relational inequalities that still persist…the privilege that eats at me from time to time. While I appreciate the grand acknowledgement and the space it creates for folks to broach a subject that is daunting and can be terrifying, I also feel that it highlights the fact that gay people have to “come out” at all! Do straight people sit their families and friends down and have awkward conversations about their sexual and relationship choices, like, “Hey mom and dad, I hope you can accept this, but I just wanted you to know that I’m straight. So glad I got that off my chest! How do you guys feel about that?” Why is this still necessary?
I would love to see a world where we all assume nothing about each other and instead exist in a utopian ideal of sameness until there is difference; and that the difference would be met with unconditional love and support. That one day, a young man could come home from college with his partner and simply introduce him to the family as if there is nothing that needs explaining. Maybe this happens for some folks. But in general, I’d like to see the need for such things as National Coming Out Day, be eradicated because they are unnecessary. Because it shouldn’t matter. Because the gender of whom each of us chooses to include in our lives is a personal choice and does not need approval or disapproval.
8 years after coming out to my family, we are at a standstill. They acknowledge that I am sure of my footing and trust my judgment but we do not talk about my romantic life. Each time I become involved with someone new, I wonder if they will be the first partner to meet my parents and how will my parents react to finally putting a face to a reality they still may not accept? When my choice to marry becomes fully legal, will they attend my wedding? When I have a child, conceived through artificial insemination in all likelihood, will they choose to be involved…not just with me and my child, but with my partner and her/their family as well? Questions that keep me in a cycle of desire, despair, apathy and frustration. While distinctions are important to our survival as humans, many are hurtful and keep us trapped in institutionalized separation. The distinction between straight and gay/queer is one that is the most provocative and marginalizing for me.
In my utopia, we are all queer, meaning we champion each others causes, care about each others' rights work towards each others' freedoms and delight in each others' happiness! We’ve removed the word ‘bully’ from the dictionary because we’ve stopped doing it. The rainbow belongs to everyone and unicorns return to being symbols of the magical within the mundane. Fairies are once again beautiful, woodland tricksters you want to be blessed by but definitely not mess with! And no one “comes out” anymore because we are all content to co-exist outside of our boxed-in identities. As soon as I figure out the recipe for pixie dust, my parents will be the first to join me in Queertopia.