Saturday, November 17, 2007

Out on a ledge

If you were to ask my friends to describe me, they would tell you I am a very low key person. Actually quite shy with new people, which makes it hard for me to meet with people for the first time. Even some of you that I email back and forth with, if faced with actually meeting you, I would be in a little bit of panic mode. The spotlight is a place that holds no appeal, there lies the problem with coming out. I often wonder how far out will be out enough. How do I handle life as a gay person, who do I tell and who do I not tell. Part of me only wants my close friends to know, being a very private person, I feel only they have earned my trust and in doing so they have a right to know the true me. My close friends are the ones that may try to fix me up so to avoid any embarrassing situations I want them to know.

On the other side of the coin, I have grown tired of the game, the one where people ask me twenty questions and I try to make up as many answers without lying by using half truths or withholding personal information that would raise more questions. Why are you not married? Do you have a girl friend? Any kids? Why not? When was the last time you were on a date? What was the name of your Last girl friend? What type of woman is your type? Don't you want a family? Do you want to be old and alone? Do you know the older you get the harder it is to find someone? Want to meet my cousin? My friend cries all the time but is really nice, want to meet her? My cousin has a huge weight problem and a bad temper, at your age you can't be too picky Steven, want to meet her? Do you like being alone? Some days I just want to wear a shirt that says in big bright letters "I suck c***, now f*** off!" Well actually I don't but here is to hoping! So bad, sorry!

I am not sure how to go about it, should I say nothing but when someone asks about a wife and kids do I just drop it that I'm gay. What about work, part of me would not want my work place to know my personal business but then part of me thinks once I am in a new place, wait until I am firmly established and then let people know. For now while single I don't think it is a big deal but once in a relationship with a boyfriend, I would have the feeling of not being true to him if I were to hide our relationship. I always say also, don't want to end up being in a bad seventies sitcom where I am running around trying to hide things that make us look gay if someone calls and says they are coming over. I think of taking the stance of keeping it to myself, however if someone starts to push for information then they better be prepared for my answer. Sometimes maybe I over think situations, I am reminded of a woman who use to visit my past work place from a different site. She was lesbian, in a relationship and not a bit reserved in talking about it. She did not hold it out there like a red flag, just casually mentioned her girlfriend from time to time in conversations, exactly like a straight person would mention their wife. The people who were most bigoted towards gays and lesbians never said one word to her. Like most cowards they would back down from someone who would confront them. Preferring to wait until she was out of the room to begin slinging the arrows. It was easier for them when in a group and out of her ear shot. Sometimes I feel weak for not saying anything and other times I feel I did the right thing and need to pick my battles.

To the gay men or women out there living in a relationship or people who are out, I wonder to what level do you take being out. Is it good enough to just let friends know. Do you sort of just let new friends and neighbors figure it out for themselves. What is the balance between being true to yourself and being cautious. Like I always say, it is important for me to live as Steven and as a side note, I just happen to be gay. Maybe I can't do that, maybe I can't separate the two, Steven and gay Steven. Sometimes I wonder if saying I want my being gay as only a side note to who I am, is really another way of me still saying I can't accept being gay. Maybe trying to not draw attention to my homosexuality is just another way of hiding it. So confusing coming out is sometimes or actually most times, I want to be out but I don't want to find that I have put myself out on a ledge.

18 comments:

Steven said...

Don't worry about putting yourself "out on a ledge." That's other people's problems if they think you've gone out on a ledge in coming out. You're only wanting to be you. Those who ask you those 100 questions about your relationship status could be trying to help you out, as my mother did.

Do not look at coming out as a one-time event. It's an event that will repeat itself hundreds of times. :-)

David said...

As it seems in everything gay related, there's a wide spectrum on how "out" someone is. I'm sure there are plenty of gay men who are perfectly content to have only a very few close people know. I'm sure there are guys out there who have great relationships with other men but they hide it from their family. Others would find it intolerable to have to censure their life in any way. You should continue to ask yourself of what you are willing to do to ensure your own well being. Do you feel compromised ever time you evade those questions? Is security more important? I'm sure that you'll find your balance.

TWISI said...

your first couple of sentences completely described me

Anonymous said...

Being in a long term relationship, most people who know us just already know. But when we moved to our new house, we pretty much let the neighbors figure it out on their own. Believe me, it doesn't take long. The ones who have no problem with it become great neighbors. The others just keep to themselves. As for being out at work...I am because I know nobody cares but there was a time maybe 10 years ago that I never discussed my private life in the workplace. A few knew but otherwise, it was nobody's business. Now I just figure, hey, it's your problem, not mine. I think that once you are completely honest and comfortable with yourself, you find that the "games" and the lies are just too much trouble.

Daniel Thomasson said...

I think the most important thing that you should worry about is making sure that you are happy. I think as you become more comfortable with your sexuality and letting people know about you sexuality, then it will become more apparent to everyone that you are gay. No matter how hard you try to hide it, the more comfortable you get with yourself, the more it will come out in your day to day life. At this point, I really don't think you need to be shouting it from the rooftops that you are gay. It's no one else's business but your own. Even when you get more comfortable with yourself as a gay man, it's still no one else's business. You should feel like you have to introduce yourself by saying "Hi I'm Steven and I'm gay." As long as you are happy that is all that matters.

Patrick said...

When my dad was 18, he joined the Quakers, and began seeing himself as a pacifist. An older Friend told him he should always take the step that was the most comfortable for himself, the right balance between comfort/conservatism and being true to himself. My dad passed this on to me when I began coming out, and it was good advice. The temptation to go as extreme as possible was so great for me (especially since I was in college), but it might have led me to a stance I wasn't ready for, and maybe didn't even agree with when examined with a cooler mind. I see myself now and realize I am FAR more out (and radical) than I could have ever imagined back in 1985, but I got here in little steps that felt comfortable (or just a little uncomfortable) at the time. As Steven said, coming out is a process that involves steps that will repeat themselves hundreds of times. Chances are you'll find yourself making steps to greater openness over time. So be patient with yourself, listen to your intuition about what feels right in the moment, and don't be ashamed to pick your battles.

Jess said...

at your age you can't be too picky Steven

That has to be the biggest mistake anyone ever makes. No matter the circumstances, not being picky is a recipe for disaster. Yes, compromise is required in a relationship but not regarding the basics of who you should date.

As for who you tell about being gay, that depends. I've found being out to be liberating. Still, there are people I don't tell. At work, everyone in my department knows, as do plenty of other people, but I don't make a point of telling people. If it seems relevant to whatever has come up, I'll say something. Otherwise, I tend not to say anything at work. After all, what does it have to do with my work?

In my personal life, pretty much everyone knows. I am who I am. I went through years where I hid that, from myself and others, but those days are done. I have to live my life!

daveincleveland said...

personally i like all the writings here, but i think at my age and time the t-shirt would work the best, seriously its to a point in my life that i don't care who knows and who doesn't if they ask why we are having problems and seem to be seperating i will tell them, i have too much wasted time to make up for to play the game .....i want (1) for her to be happy and find someone, (2)a relationship with someone, someone to wake up with in the morning, make breakfast and all that othe stuff (3) be able to go anywhere with my man and be proud that i am with the one that i truly love....

Bill said...

I've given this a lot of thought (two seconds), and I think you should opt for the mean fat girl.

From what I know of you, Steven, I don't think you would feel anymore comfortable on a ledge than you were in the closet. Either space is too confining.

Ah, the workplace. If only folks would focus on work instead of gossip. But they don't, and they won't. Regarding the behind-the-back remarks about the lesbian, I've found that a mild remark like "I'm glad she's in a good relationship" usually turns the tone of the conversation. If bigoted remarks persist, a firm "Don't talk like that in front of me" does the trick. Bigots usually fold up when they are challenged.

john said...

Hey buddy, sometimes it does feel like a ledge and sometimes it feel so easy. I may write a post about this.

Sooo-this-is-me said...

Steven, trust me when I say they are not trying to help me, they just have no clue and usually are mostly sticking their nose where it was never invited. I was hoping for the one time event but I know you are correct.

David, that is the thing which frustrates me, where is the balance that lets me be me but also private.

Kendall, really, you are quiet and shy? Then we would get along great.

Kevin, I am finding that I feel at that point where the games are too much trouble, however I'm still alone so no one to back me up emotionally speaking. I was thinking that is the way I would go, just let people figure it out.

Daniel, don't worry, there will be no rooftop shouting. I did joke with a friend once that I was going to pass out flyers at the mall near by - not! I know it is no one else's business I wonder sometimes if I'm being a coward by not saying anything.

Patrick, good advice, I need to avoid the guilt when picking my battles. I really needed to hear how other people go about their day to day lives. I don't see my self becoming radical but I am getting to the point where I don't care what straight people think any more.

Jess, don't worry I am still picky, but only in how the person treats me and others around. You are right, I have to live my life as well. As I said I needed to hear how others do this so thanks.

Dave, maybe I should start one of those T-shirt stalls in a mall only I would probably get kicked out for foul writing on the shirts! I feel like I'm running out of time as well and don't want to play these games any more.

Bill, you will be the first invited to my mean chick wedding! Great advice on how to handle bigots, yes they fold quick when called up. I did do it one day at work with one guy. I asked him why he was so obsessed with everything gay, was there something he needed to tell us and if not then I was tired of hearing the bigoted comments, he turned red and almost melted.

John, yay someone in the same boat as me! You do the rowing while I rest my eyes a little.

Wayne said...

Steven,
From a couple who has been together for 30 years now, I can say, just be you. People will figure it out. My best response to people who are surprised about me being gay is "I might be gay, but I'm not queer"
It's a great ice breaker. They laugh and are instantly more comfortable. Just be you. If your comfortable with who you are, they will accept that. If not, they won't come around.

Vic Mansfield said...

Perhaps this is apropos of nothing: We Southerners have always had ways of saying nothing that really says something.

If folk were "wondering" about a single man, one might say, "Well, he's just not the marrying type." That translates into "he's queer."

I've often wondered if I should use that line. Now that I am separated from my wife, if someone asked, I could say, "Well, I guess I'm just not the marrying type."

Maybe they'd figure it out. Maybe they'd just be puzzled. But it's a response that says nothing and everything. Bless your heart.

Cheers, "Joe"

W said...

Your sexuality is as private as it can get. You have the right to not people in. But yeah, the world kida bulldozes its way in anyways.

When I get asked later, where are the wife and the kiddies, I'll just be like I haven't found someone to settle down with. Just being economical with the truth.

If I were in a relationship, I'd be upfront about it but wouldn't wanna discuss it.

I agree with Steven, coming out is a life long process. But don't think of it as putting yourself on the ledge, once you get more comfortable it'll prolly be like saying I don't like chocolate or something equally innocuous but egregious.

I wish I could fast-forward to that stage.

I absolutely empathise.You'll find your comfort zone eventually. Don't stress buddy.

JOHANNES said...

Steven,
I have choosen to live as Jon and Gay Jon in my own personal life.

At work I am Jon, the masculine guy that is great at finance and easy to work with on a project.

Away from work, I am gay. My friends, and they are few, are gay.
Most know where I work. Some are in their twenties and some in their forties. Our friendship revolves mostly (90%) of the time around being in bed for several hours. Most are single men, one is married.

Most of my family does not know, but I do have several gay cousins.

I would not come out at work. My employer hired me for a specific task that needs to be done, not to fulfill a quota in the gay box.

It is working for me. I am comfortable. I do not feel compartmentalised or ill at ease in any way.

Chicks hit on me all the time. Far more, to my disappointment, than guys.

Cooper said...

As others have said, coming out is a life long process. There will always be the new neighbour, the new job, the new situation.

The first time I came out at work was unplanned, and the result of something rabidly homophobic a co-worker had said in the lunch room. After making my statement (How do you know we don't have one of those fags in our workplace? You've been working with one for three years!"), I went to the washroom and threw-up. I work in a very straight oriented field and almost everyone has been very accepting of my sexuality.

I dated a man who was 100% in the closet for a few months last year, and I came to realise anew that I just couldn't live my life that way. Not to be able to even casually when in public, by a glance or word or little touch, show my feelings for him, hurt both of us. To hide who you are not only creates anxiety, it wears away on your soul and heart.

Being gay is part of who you are, as intrinsic to you as your skin cells and the pattern of your fingerprints. No one is going to
revoke your gay card for not being gay a certain way, but being authentic to who you are will certainly make you happier. Patience, love, gentleness ...show them all to yourself.

Anonymous said...

Coming out and to whom all depends on you. I have been out to my familly for ages and they are the best and most supporting people in my life. My husband and I are the godparents to our nephews. Work is different beast altogether. I only come out when I was going through the messy breakup with my ex and I finally had to sit down with my boss and explain everything. Turns out he had known for ages and most of the office suspected. I don't advertize it but if they ask I will tell them. and yes, I bring my husband to all the company functions and I have never, ever had a problem even in the industry I work in.

Sooo-this-is-me said...

Wayne, maybe it would be easier if I was in a relationship. I would not want to deny my partner plus I would also not feel alone.

Joe, well here in Canada I can marry, so I guess that makes me the marrying kind, only the two little people on top of the cake will both be wearing tuxes! ;)

Erik, I agree life bulldozes it's way into our lives and the driver is straight.

Jon, thanks for popping in. This is the way I am starting out, most of my really close friends know but out side of that almost no one knows.

Cooper, very brave of you for what you did at work. From what I read about you I know you are someone that would be true to himself. If I were to start dating someone, I could never ask them to go back into the closet and that is what scares me about relationships right now.

Anthony, I am starting to see that now, most people don't really care as long as we are with someone and happy. The people who have a problem are usually a little off to begin with.