I thought I officially came out twenty-six years ago. In the living room of my unlit Dallas apartment, I told--er, "confessed" may be the better word since it felt like a crime in Texas--my best friend that I was, deep breath, a homosexual. (Homosexual was more dramatic than gay, less abrasive than the Larry Kramer-adopted faggot.) It went well. She listened and we continued talking for at least another hour.
Then I didn't hear from her for three weeks.
And we never really talked about it again over the next seven years. The friendship suffered to the point where I even missed her wedding.
Four years later, I felt compelled to come out to my sister when she asked me to be her daughter's godfather. Knowing there would be a ceremony in a Catholic church, I again confessed. She politely informed me a week later that she'd talked to a priest and made a decision to find a different person (rather than a "different" person) to fill the role. My parents, not knowing the reason for the switcheroo, assumed it was another case of me being difficult.
It took four more years before I flew to my parents' beachside condo on the Gulf of Mexico for a coming out weekend. By then, I was in love and I was tired of spending Sunday dinners with his family in L.A. while keeping mum about his existence to my mom and dad. My mother's reaction? "Can't you just abstain?" My father, a doctor, went into a clinical spiel about condom usage.
Coming out is awkward. It should be unnecessary. Friends and family should feel free to ask and the question shouldn't feel like a putdown. "Are you gay?" Just a point of clarification, not incrimination. Would have been so welcome two months before senior prom at my Texas high school. Back then, the cause wouldn't have been my right to go to the prom, but my right not to. Lori Baker would have had such a better time. (She wisely dumped me midway through prom night, sneaking off with uberbrain Jeff Hull. I'm guessing they snuggled while pondering the longterm impact of Reaganomics.)
Leaving Dallas and heading to Los Angeles was the smartest move I ever made, Northridge earthquake and getting shot at during the Rodney King riots notwithstanding. Sure, I made the mistake of attending one of the most conservative law schools in the United States, but I found my way into West Hollywood and discovered another world. My day and my night were radically different. It was like my own "Looking for Mr. Goodbar" but without the drugs and violence. Or the Richard Gere. (Sigh.)
When I worked as a research attorney for a couple of judges, my colleagues knew I was gay. The judges didn't officially know, but the earring gave it away. Both my partners in L.A. were openly gay. Their jobs made it easy: the first worked for AIDS Project Los Angeles, the second for a liberal Jewish charity. It was the latter guy who convinced me to pierce my ear; he also inspired me to slap a pink triangle on the bumper of my conservative Honda Accord.
I was out. Maybe not so loud, but proud. I volunteered for APLA, attended AIDS Walks and marched for days in protest of California Governor Pete Wilson's veto of AB101, a bill to outlaw workplace discrimination against gays and lesbians.
But things changed when I moved to British Columbia. I got a job working with kids and peeled off the bumper sticker. Insecurity? Sure. That gay=pedophile equation from my eleven years in Texas crept back in. Amongst colleagues, I remained openly gay. It was easy as all the other men were gay, too. Then I took a job transfer. No more gay work buds. I worked most closely with a devout Mennonite woman. I never pretended to be straight, but I was the asexual single guy (despite the fact I had a partner).
More transfers and promotions and my gayness washed away completely. I am now the asexual single guy with no parenthetical. Despite my exhilarating L.A. days, I am not a trailblazer. I am not in a profession where being an out gay man is common. There are some lesbians who are more open but, to my knowledge lesbian=pedophile never took, not even in the Bible Belt.
So now I'm out in pockets. Most of my family knows, except for my evangelical Baptist brother and his family. Friends scattered about North America know. At work, well, there's that one co-worker who figured it out and tried to set me up with a straight single guy in her neighborhood. That's it though. In my rural community, not a chance. There are well-settled lesbians, but the gays stick to the cities. The single ones, at least.
Given my current situation, am I out at all? Do I need to be?
I know the answers, but I don't know what to do anymore. More on that in my next blog posting.