Coming out to friends and family. Should you? And what’s the best way?

Hi, friends and readers:

A person named Jon who follows this site wrote me recently to ask the following:

“I haven’t read all your posts so I don’t know if you’ve already talked about it, but I was wondering, what was it like for you as a teenager? Do you have any interesting coming-out stories? Any chance that you might write a post about it?”

Jon, I hope you don’t mind me posting your comment for everyone to see. I, of course, will not post your e-mail address.

I’m not a young man, Jon. I turned thirteen just before President Kennedy was assassinated. In the mid-1960s and early 1970s, homosexuality was not considered socially acceptable. Gay men were universally persecuted, excepting in a few cities like NYC, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

When I left for college, at age seventeen, I had never touched another boy. I was terrified of my gay sexual orientation; I tried denying my urges. It wasn’t until my senior year of college, after a few pleasing sexual encounters with other young men, that I came out to a few friends. I didn’t come out to my family until I was in law school, when the gay rights movement finally got traction. At the age of twenty-four, I was fully out of the closet, and I’ve never looked back.

So, I was never “out” as a teenager. It’s sad, really. I missed out on so much happiness I might have experienced had I been able to date boys. But, you cannot change the past, can you? It wouldn’t do any good for me to lament how things were. I’m just glad they are better now.

I want to share with you an brief essay a young man wrote, shortly after he came out to his parents. I think it’s a beautiful statement. Here it is:

“A lot of you will remember I came out to my parents last Thanksgiving. If you’ve been following me a while you’ll know I’ve been reluctant to talk about it. I tend to internalize things and the actual act of telling my parents was just personally traumatic that I haven’t wanted to go back and relive the events of that night if I can help it. I spent the better part of my teenage years trying to block my parents out of my life, telling them I was going to calculus extra help when I was driving down to visit my boyfriend or lying about who I was hanging out with so they wouldn’t suspect I was gay or straight. November 26th, 2009 I single handedly destroyed that world I had built for them. It was like throwing the engine suddenly into reverse and being honest with them, and myself, was terrifying. I felt exposed but once I started talking to them about it, everything just poured out. All the lies, all the withheld information, all my fears, why I waited so long, how I had felt, how I was sorry.

“I’m not one to cry and I don’t think I’ve cried in front of my parents since I was little, but I couldn’t hold it back or stop myself. It was that kind of awkward cry where you can’t control what noises you make. But what I had done was permanent, there was no going back to the life I had had before. For years I’d lie awake at night and think about the day I would tell them, but once I finally did I realized I’d never thought about what my life would be like after. I was in completely uncharted territory but I wasn’t scared because I had nothing else to lose. I’d bared everything I had, I had turned my world around on them and the ball was in their court now.

“Neither of them knew what to do but I shouldn’t have expected them to. But they stood by me and told me that it didn’t change anything and that all they wanted was to know I was happy and safe. And even today, they still don’t know how to be about it but they try so hard. Its not perfect but now I feel like we’re trying to move on together. My relationship with my parents, my sister, and my brother has never been better and I feel a part of their world for the first time that I can really remember.

“My brother is getting married Saturday and being involved in making that wedding happen has had me thinking about my future and I think I can now say that someday if I have a wedding I can count on my brother to be my best man and my mom to fuss over the plans and drive me crazy and do everything else they would do for him.

“A year ago was the National Equality March and while I can’t even begin to go into how great and surreal that whole weekend was, it was that day last year that set me on the path to tell my parents. When they called me that night and asked me what I did that weekend and I had to say nothing, I couldn’t take it anymore.

“For anyone who still has yet to come out, you don’t need me to tell you it gets better after. But the closet does things to you that people aren’t meant to go through. The constant introspection and over analyzing and the fear, it stops. It goes away and it doesn’t come back.  Remember that telling people isn’t so much a clarification for them but a fight for you and your life. No matter how much it feels like your environment is dictating to you, remember you can give it the finger and change it however you like.

“That’s all. ”

Well, Jon, I think the young man’s words I’ve posted here say about all that’s needed about coming out. It’s essential to our happiness. It’s liberating. People know just who you are, and if they can’t accept the real you, then you don’t need them in your life. Believe me, there are plenty of accepting folks out there who will not judge you on the basis of sexual orientation.

Have I written anything about the coming out process? Yeah, I’ve written several short stories on this subject. You may want to read my anthology titled Becoming Men. The cover appears in the sidebar in this website. Click on the cover and you can check out the book, if you’d like.

Also, my free fiction offering, titled Carter DuBose, appears in the sidebar. It’s a coming out tale, and it won’t cost you anything to read it. Keep in mind, all these stories contain sexually-explicit scenes. If that sort of thing offends you, don’t read them.

I’m home from my surfing trip to Brevard County. The jaunt had its good and bad moments; I’ll write about them tomorrow. Have a nice Friday evening, everyone.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.