Friday, November 06, 2009

BearToast Explains more: Why Come Out

I've been asked the "why come out" question.  Of course, I've been asking myself that one for years.

Since I finally came out to myself, accepting that I am, in fact, gay, there is always a question of to whom one should come out.  Of course, my (now ex-)wife was a first. I came out to my boss (the regional executive).  I told my brothers (who were not amused), and I have told my children.

Why come out at work?  Is it anyone's business?  No, but it's my soul that can't stand the feeling of hiding.

Brent over at A Journey by myself put it very well in a recent post: 
Today I got to thinking about how when I'm out with straight friends that don't know I'm gay or gay friends that don't know I'm married, I tend to be reserved. But the few times I've been out with people that know my situation, how comfortable I feel. . . . .    I guess the lesson here, is that hiding a secret like this plays havoc on your soul. 

As I've said before, about not coming out, it was slow-motion suicide of the soul.  I mean no judgment on anyone else or his/her situation.  I can and do speak for myself, alone.  I just couldn't handle it.

With my job:  I am in a strange kind of profession that involves who I am as much as any particular skills or task that I may perform.  I cannot relate well to folk unless I am who I am.  Other jobs, professions, etc., are different.  Maybe it's not a big deal.  Each must judge and decide for himself or herself.

Here is a quote from the book Disclosures:  Conversations Gay and Spiritual by Michael Ford (2004, Cowley Publications).  The author is quoting psychiatrist W.G. Sengers.  The "first level of resistance" is when we deny those gay feelings within oursleves:
The second level of resistance emerges in contexts where the homosexual understands his feelings but is tortured by the fear that anyone else should detect them.  As a result, he experiences social isolation, even when he is in the company of others.  He uses up energy in constantly pretending he is "normal."  he never feels relaxed enough to express his true feelings.  This can lead to obsessive tendencies.  He becomes so preoccupied with the fear of being recognized as gay that his sexual feelings are constantly in his mind, haunting him day and night.  They force him to sexualize his total existence. Every situation becomes filled with danger as he remains in a constant state of vigilance to prevent anyone from discovering the truth.  His sexual life, therefore, stands little chance of forming a unity with the rest of his personality. (pp 30-31)
 I know this is probably more than you wanted to hear.  And, there is more great stuff in this book I'l love to mention.  But my typing ain't that great.

Sexuality (gay or straight) is something that is an essential part of our being.  It is something woven throughout the texture, the fabric of our lives.  To try and hard part of that fabric means that, in some sense, we hide the whole thing.  I am weary of hiding.  I desire unity with myself, authenticity, honesty, wholeness.

But there is more.  Claiming this part of me, acknowledging it, accepting it, embracing it, (or trying to do all those things) gives me opportunity to acknowledge and embrace my "tribe."  All of the LGBTQ folk out there are a chosen family to me.  I haven't been out long enough to move into a "post-gay" period.

I know some who are "over it." And I think I understand why, and what that means.  But I am such a newbie, I want to relish in this newness.  Having spent so many years in isolation, I am embracing this new family.  i want to come out for "all of us."  The more the homophobe world realizes we are everywhere, in every profession, in all walks of life, of every age, the more they will have opportunity to understand and accept us.  Some will.  Some will not.  But I've got to try.  I think we all should.

Do I have a plan if it all falls apart?  If I lose my job, my income, etc., what will I do?  Should I wait and think about coming out when it won't "hurt" anyone?  Well, that is an idea . . . . but I'd be dead by then.

I want to come out consciously with my place of business.  If I do not, I will be outed unconsciously.  I fear I am becoming the new elephant in the living room.  (Everyone knows it's there.  Everyone ignores it and just dances around the obvious).

My children have expressed their undying support for me.  Though that has not been severely tested, it may be.  I've done too much to shield them from adversity all along the way.  They are strong, or they will be.  Love means more than just providing for them.  The most loving thing I can do for anyone is to be me.  All of me.  The whole of me.


Java said...

You are so verily, strongly, absolutely right. I'm proud of your attitude about coming out. Yay Joe!

BTW, go check out my blog for today's post. My husband, Superman, wrote a guest post today that I think you will find encouraging.

Lemuel said...

I appreciate all that you have to say here. It is both comforting and convicting to read.

I could not help but reflect on the part of your post in which you talked about reveling in your newly found Family and about others who are in their "post-gay" period. The pressure inside me was building through my 40's and into my 50's to acknowledge to myself who I really was. When I was 55 it finally happened. I remember my feelings then and how I teetered on the edge of fully coming out. I was so excited about my own admission/discovery and about this whole new world that I had missed for so much of my life. Skipping the details, I will only say that my excitement has waned. Perhaps I have moved into a kind of "post-gay for the closeted".

Michael Dodd said...

My partner and I have often reflected on the experience of being so much more relaxed when socializing with other gays. It is not because we talk about sex or anything, but it is because -- as you mention -- we can just be who we are. Being with straight friends who know we are gay is good, too, but there is an added level of freedom when with a gay crowd.

My elderly parents, who have known for some years that I am gay, are tormented by their fear that others will find out about me, and they impose their fears on me when I visit them. This makes me very uncomfortable, having to play the "what is the safe answer to this person's innocent and friendly question" game. Because of my [former] profession, they are even more anxious to maintain illusions about me among their friends. I don't want to frighten the horses, so to speak, but I don't think they realize how hard it is for me to even come visit when I know I will be expected to sustain the falsehoods for an extended period of time.

And the odds are, of course, that only a few of the horses would be frightened, that almost certainly among their friends are people with children or grandchildren who are gay or lesbian. But because there is a conspiracy of silence, everyone tiptoes around on eggs when it would be so much easier just to acknowledge it and move on.

It's not like I am going to talk with the folks at the Senior Center about how hot the maintenance guy looks. Sheesh!

The word verification is tommones -- the physiological cause of the rush when I see my partner, Tom.

RB said...

You've reached a comfort level in your life...with where you're at...with what people know about you. That's great. We all have our own place where we feel comfortable.

Neil said...

Good luck on the way.

Raven~ said...

OK, so I came out to my parents and many friends when I was in High School (early 60's), but still tried to maintain appearances at home. Then in college, I tried to play that "whom have I told what" game ... was finally released from that bondage when I had a breakdown in my senior year

It kills the soul, hon, as you well know.

You invoked one bit of 12-Step widsdom in your post (the elephant), let me quote another: "We are only as sick as our secrets." I think that says it all

Dyl said...

I think you're fab and any encouragement or help I or anyone I know can give you you only need to ask. But I would disagree with a some people here. I'd say being 'post-gay' is when you are extremely comfortable being yourself no matter who you are with (assuming they're friends obviously). True friends don't give a monkeys and love you for who you are. And I've found with straight friends there's sometimes actually more freedom as there's none of that 'are they only friends with me cos they want to shag me' thing. And the other side is bloody marvellous let me tell you. xx

Ur-spo said...

there comes a time in a person's life where being not true to your Self is just too much, so coming out becomes not a choice but necessary for going on.

Birdie said...

I feel like I'm watching the bloom of an origami flower, fold after complex fold showing more and more beauty. After a life of forced artificiality, you are becoming genuinely yourself, and such a wonderful creation you are. No, I'm not exaggerating. I've only known you as a gay man, and I find you humble, gracious, funny, spiritual, sexual, intelligent, and fully human. The world awaits you, the whole of you.

A Troll At Sea said...


You know what I have to say, because it's always a variation on what I've said somewhere else some other time. What can I say? I'm my mother's daughter, after all.

But I would just ask you to bear in mind that you must not let recognizing WHAT you are blind you to WHO you are, which is bigger, and in the long run, more important to that Chief Executive Up There.

You know what I say? "I do not like the cone of shame."

Hang in there,

RG said...

You've done a lot in a short period of time. It's okay to put life's car in neutral and coast down hill for awhile.

Bigg said...

If I needed the importance of coming out underscored to me, this post on towleroad did it for me:
In it, one of hockey's he-men said how much he loved and supported his gay son. That would never have happened if his son had not come out to him; when each of us does, it puts a human face on what was previously just an opinion. When everybody knows somebody who's gay, there will be a lot less homophobia - not that it will ever go away completely.
I am so happy and proud for you. All my best, as always.