Even though US society has come a long way in how gay people are treated, the process of coming out is still frequently a complicated, emotional, and lengthy process.
I came out in college and just the first step, the step of coming to face the simple fact that I am gay, took me several years beginning in high school and finally coming to a point my sophomore year in college. Even just admitting to myself that I am sexually attracted to other men required nearly a year of therapy. And even then I started out saying I was bisexual because I still held out “hope” that I would marry a woman.
My struggle with coming out to myself meant dealing with how I saw myself in society, in my family, in my future, in my future career, etc. I had to consider what it meant for my sense of my own masculinity and my identity. I was a Christian at the time and I had to think about what it would mean for my faith. I had to wonder if I would ever feel safe in a crowd because headlines of gay people being killed by random strangers were and still are all too common.
Fear. Guilt. Confusion.
It was tough.
It was an emotional and sometimes painful process. And I hadn’t even reached a point where I thought I could tell anyone else.
When I did eventually start telling my friends, I swore each one to secrecy. I was afraid of what people would say if I weren’t there to talk it through with them and put their — and my — worries to rest.
It took a while, but I did finally get to a point where I didn’t mind if my friends told other people that I’m gay. These days I just assume everyone knows I’m gay, but back then I was actually afraid of going to a gay pride parade lest I be spotted in the b-roll of news footage of the event!
If you’ve never had to go through the process of coming out it’s probably difficult to really grasp the scope and complexity of this extremely emotional process. This is why I frequently tell people that when someone comes out to someone else it’s less about the person being told than the person doing the telling. It’s a process, a journey.
I was fortunate to have a number of respectful, supportive, and trustworthy friends around me. I think a lot of them already knew I was gay before I did, but they never pushed me about it. They let me come out to them in my own time and in my own way. And when I did tell them I knew I could trust them not to treat the “revelation” as a bit of gossip to be bandied about.
Unfortunately, my BF has not been as fortunate.
His process of coming out didn’t really start until a few years ago. And when we started dating he wasn’t out to any of his friends or family.
That’s been a real struggle for me because I’ve been out for so long and I frequently blog, tweet, and Facebook about the details of my life. I don’t keep it a secret and it’s often easy for me to forget those feelings of fear and doubt that I had while coming out. I’m just so happy to be with him and proud of him. I love him and I want to tell everyone in the world how wonderful it is being with him! But I do try to be patient, supportive, and understanding.
And I regret that this means I’ve really overstepped the bounds of his comfort sometimes in talking about him in public. It breaks my heart to know that I’ve been the cause of some amount of fear and angst because I’ve been too open about our relationship.
But he’s come a long way and I’m also very happy to have been with him through the process, which is still ongoing.
As far as he’s been able to tell me, most of my BF’s friends to whom he’s come out have been very supportive and nice about it. Obviously, I can’t know what they think privately or if they’ve treated him poorly behind closed doors. But overall and by all appearances he’s been well-supported.
Except for one person.
It’s hard for me not to call this woman nasty names because her complete lack of sensitivity and basic courtesy has not only been hurtful to my BF, but she has been using my postings to social media and my blogs to conduct a campaign that is explicitly dedicated to outing him to his friends — and she doesn’t give a damn how he feels about that.
And she has the audacity (or self delusion) to say she treats him this way because she wants to be his friend.
Before I made my Facebook profile private, she snooped my pictures and posts looking for references to my BF and events that she could line up with facts about his life, looking for proof of our relationship. She’s been following my Twitter posts, which is why I had to make my Twitter and Instagram accounts private this morning.
And I believe she will read this post, so I hope she’s reading carefully.
To that woman:
Lady, your behavior is not that of a friend. You have been rude, insensitive, and disrespectful. You have treated this sensitive and important part of his life has grist for rumor and gossip.
I am told you lack the social and self awareness to comprehend the wrong you’ve done, but you owe him an apology.
At one point early in our relationship when she suspected that I was his new relationship, she sent him a text message asking him rather brusquely if he was gay. At the time, I tried to be supportive but wrote off the tone deafness of text as simple immaturity or perhaps drunkenness.
Pro tip: If you want someone to disclose sensitive information, don’t confront them via text. See also: only assholes break up via text message.
But it didn’t end there. My BF is at a wedding of his friends this weekend and one of them told him that this woman had made it her “number one goal” to out him at this wedding. That’s a direct quote from one of the many friends to whom she’s taken her amassed evidence of our relationship. Apparently, she likes to go through the pictures I post online in hopes of catching a glimpse of the BF’s hands, legs, or clothes and then take them to their mutual friends so as to advance her position as town gossip.
I realize that — if she is reading this — when she realizes this post is about her she is likely to get angry. And I also understand from my BF that she seems to honestly believe she’s done nothing wrong here, so it’s likely that this will fall on deaf ears.
But my goal in writing this is to explain to people at large — and her in particular — that coming out is a non-trivial process and friends should be respectful and supportive of their friends who are going through this journey. It’s not something you can speed along except by being kind, thoughtful, and patient while letting your friend work through it on their own. If they haven’t come out to you yet, just wait quietly for the time to come.