Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Coming Out and Being on Display

In most places in our world, there's a price to be paid for giving up straight privilege...

...and what does paying that price get you?

The chance to be as happy and fulfilled as the average straight person.

I call that a "Gambler's Nightmare."  You risk everything and, at best, you might break even.

When I first admitted to myself that I was gay, I remember my thoughts exactly.  I was 13.  I'd reached a breaking point after quietly suffering through many months of intense self-loathing.  I'd become a hollowed-out basket case who couldn't do anything, especially look in a mirror.

One day after school, when I was alone with my thoughts for far too long, I collapsed into a sobbing mess on the floor.  I couldn't stop crying.  Finally, after about two hours, I realized what the solution was...  I could declare a truce.  I could admit who I was, and stop beating myself up about it, but that's as far as I needed to go. Because the truth of my sexuality was only known to me, it was MY secret to keep.  I could indulge myself with unlimited, unrestrained gay thoughts but no one would ever know what I was thinking unless I told them. My destiny, therefore, was entirely in my own hands.  As long as I kept the secret, I'd never have to pay a price for it.

Well, the secret has been out now (sort of) for a number of years -  
  • I've been out to my former wife for five years.  
  • I've been out to my kids for nearly four.  
  • I've also been dating men for four years.  
  • I've held hands with and kissed men in public. 
  • I've gone to a public function as part of a gay couple.  
  • I've double-dated with a straight couple as part of a gay couple.
And...

That's it.  That's the complete list of how far my gay self has been integrated into my straight life.

Some people might be impressed that I'm out to my former wife and kids.  Yes, I suppose that is an accomplishment --- but I'm as minimally out to them as I could be.  I don't talk about my gay life with any of them.  In five years, my former wife has asked me twice if I'm seeing anyone.  I wasn't at either time so I said no.  On one occasion I added, "I've had a few first dates but nothing worth mentioning.  Nice people, decent conversations, that's it."

Only one of my three kids has ever asked about my dating life.  When she was 14, my daughter told me I "needed to get laid."  My response was to give her a disapproving look.  Although I was secretly flattered by her concern, I had no interest in talking to her about my sex life.

Really, the ONLY substantive way I'm out to Gabbie, my kids and Gabbie's mother is that they all know I attend two weekly meetings with "guys like me."  If I didn't keep those two weeknights permanently booked, they could all claim they'd forgotten I was gay.

Clearly, I want to hold on to straight privilege for as long as possible.

Why?

Because I'm not much different at 49 than I was at 13.  I'm perfectly happy to have unlimited gay thoughts AND keep my straight life.  Living this way is easy.  It's also what I know.

When I think of changing, I dread what I've always dreaded - the scrutiny of others.

By "scrutiny" I don't mean judgement.  That I don't mind so much.  Getting called a faggot by a stranger on the street doesn't really bother me.  Getting disowned by my parents or other family members doesn't concern me.  I don't fear getting assaulted, nor do I worry about losing my job.  None of the potentially horrible things that most closeted people fear don't weigh on me.  Should any of them happen, I'm totally confident I will survive, recover and thrive.

What I dislike is the drip-drip-drip of being constantly scrutinized.  To feel like I'm being watched and talked about.  To be the subject of gossip whenever my back in turned.  There's a certain insidiousness about scrutiny that I find hard to handle.  If I was an animal in a zoo, I'd rather by totally alone than on display being gawked at all day.  Perhaps this is how the typical closeted person feels.  I don't know.

I sometimes wonder if my sexuality is the root cause of my dislike of the spotlight   My daughter loves to talk about how great it would be to be famous.  No thank you!  To be followed everywhere, written about, harassed and forced to put on a happy face every time I step outside?  What a hellish nightmare.  I'll take anonymous mediocrity any day.

Anyway... the reason I'm writing about this now is because things are going nicely with the Architect.  It's still too early to be certain yet, but a Day of Reckoning looks to be on the horizon.  For the sake of everyone involved, myself included, I feel like I'll need to cross a threshold before the end of summer; I'll need to start telling more people what I've been doing with my life.

Although I will continue to cling to every bit of straight privilege while I can, I'm in the mental process of psyching myself up for a life of scrutiny.  Fortunately I've learned that fear is something you punch in the face, not run away from.




Me at 13.  I'm in the blue shirt :-)

4 comments:

  1. To share a bit of my own experience, strength and hope ...
    Eleven years ago when we moved to a new town -- new to me, it was where my (now) husband had grown up -- I decided not to come out to people. Instead, I would just BE out. I talked about Tom the way my co-0workers talked about their spouses. I talked about his ex-wife and their adult children, including the one who lived with us for three years. It may have helped that neither of us is particularly flamboyant, that we were men in our late fifties and so on. Tom was politically active, even served as state chair of the LGBT Democratic caucus for several years. He debated anti-gay-marriage leaders on public panels. We were visible. In all those years, I never heard an unkind word -- although I am sure some must have been spoken -- and the fact that we were a gay couple seemed to have no negative impact on the people who mattered to us. When we became domestic partners, people surprised us with a cake featuring two roosters. When we got married, people volunteered to be our witnesses. Was there some scrutiny? Yes, but I only experienced the positive bits, the funny bits.

    Finally, I suspect that the vast majority of people actually give little thought to me or Tom or anyone else. We are all a bit self-centered, maybe a bit family-circle-centered or workplace-centered.

    It will be fine. It doesn't have to be dramatic. Just be free.

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  2. We are like "thought twins", I completely get what you are saying, I worry about the animal in the zoo type feeling all the time as well. However MDodd is correct, in my last relationship I was relieved with how little people paid attention to us and that feeling will soon go away. In fact you will probably find many people will be happy for you, yes they will probably give you a curious eye at first but everything gets old and people move on. Anyway I don't want to take away from what you are saying, I hear you, I get it.

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  3. This is an interesting post.

    Why are some people (including me) so concerned about people knowing they gay? This is a question I've asked myself.

    Part of it is generational. Part of is family and their level of acceptance (or hostility). A big part is support system. Do you have an accepting group of friends? A support system of gay friends?

    I sit on the sidelines and watch "out" gay people in the workplace, and then see how people make little comments. I hate it. But then I know how those people really feel. I tell them drop it...who cares. They probably don't really care anyway. That's better than 20 years ago when people were just disgusted by gays. Lots of progress I guess.

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  4. As a Bisexual, Married man, I find no reason to announce anything to anyone. My wife knew I was bisexual long before we were married. Marriage, for us, wasn't and isn't ALL about sex - it's about friendship, and caring.
    I guess my point is, I don't hide anything - I just don't announce it. I go out to the theatre with my wife, I go out with the guy I was seeing before I got married. I hug and kiss all of our male friends. People see us; if they wonder about my relationship(s) it has no effect on me. My sexuality isn't really their business, just as their's is none of mine.
    Live your life, enjoy your life, live in the way that makes you happy.

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