Coming out is hard. But besides that, it’s also freeing, scary, exhilarating, emotional, and one of the most important things we’ll go through as members of the LGBTQ+ community. But there’s one thing that didn’t occur to us after we came out all those years ago…
We didn’t realize that we would have to keep coming out to people that we meet for the first time. Strange, right? We figured we came out to our friends and family, it was hard and scary, but necessary, we feel better about everything, the end. But what about everyone else? What about your teachers or coworkers? What about the clerk at the check out line who sees you buying a boyfriend birthday card and gives you a strange look? What about your extended family that you see once a year on holidays who aren’t in the know? What about all of those people?
Coming out to people you love is difficult enough, so why do we have to do it over and over with people we meet for the first time for the rest of our lives? The film Love, Simon had a hilarious scene asking why do people have to come out as gay in the first place, because straight people don’t have to come out as straight. That’s another topic for another day, but it does lend itself to the fact that, as members of the LGBTQ+ community, we never really stop coming out during our lifetime.
But what does happen, is you get used to it, and it becomes less awkward/intimidating over the years. What prompted this entire blog post was something that happened the other day while we were at a closing for a new piece of land that we purchased. The landowners (a straight, southern couple who are probably in their 70’s) had only been in contact with PJ up until closing day, so they weren’t aware Thomas even existed. When we get to the closing, we both sit down and go through the process of signing all of the papers since the land is in both of our names. After about 10 minutes of this whole deal, the husband looks at Thomas and asks “So are you his friend…? Are you his-” and before he could finish, Thomas politely and matter-of-factly responded with “No, I’m his husband.” The man’s eyes widened with surprise at hearing probably the last thing he expected to hear that day. We were waiting for his next move with not one clue on how he was going to take it (not that it really mattered, to be honest).
He looked at Thomas with a not-knowing-what-to-say kind of look on his face, then looked at PJ, then looked back at Thomas, still not sure how to respond. Thomas then said, smiling, “But we ARE friends, too!” The man laughed and that was that. Was he supportive? Who knows (probably not). Were his wife and him going to start coming to Gay Pride parades next year? Absolutely not. But we were probably the only queer people he has knowingly come in contact with for some time. We don’t know any of this for sure, but based on his reaction when we told him we were married, and the fact that we live in the middle of the Bible Belt, we’re confident that he doesn’t know too many gay people.
This brings up another point. If you’re in a strong enough place mentally and you feel safe and comfortable, you can use instances like this to show you’re out, proud, and completely unapologetic for who you are. A lot of the time, people who are judgmental or homophobic may not know any (open) LGBTQ+ people personally, they may have been taught that being gay is a sin, or they may just not know much about what it means to be part of this community. We could have easily said that we were friends or business partners, that would have been simple and harmless (for him), but if we constantly hide away from who we are, how do we grow as people? How do we grow as a society? It’s not always safe for folks to come out, which is heartbreaking , but when we show folks that, as a community, we are no different than everyone else, that’s one of the ways progress is made.
It’s gotten easier over the years to continually come out to people. When we first started coming out to strangers (at work, in classrooms, etc.) it was awkward and we felt uncomfortable, but we quickly realized this is who we are and there’s no changing it. It’s just a part of what life is going to look like for us and we could either accept it and move on, or let it consume us and manifest itself into controlling our life. We’ve never really looked back since.
So what do you think? Do you find it hard or frustrating to have to come out over and over again or do you not really think about it? It’s wild how the same experience can affect people differently, isn’t it? What’s your take on this?