Forgiving Those Who Take Forever To Come Out

Dear World,

I came out of the closet when I was 15.

At the time, I lived in a house right under this waterfall:

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I worked here:

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And I went to this gross high school:

mchs15

I’ve actually always hated that phrase, “coming out of the closet.” It implies you’ve been lying about something your whole life, when in reality you’re just a kid trying to figure out who you are. As much as I resented that term, however, I decided it was important to come out because I thought it would be beneficial for the kids at my isolated high school to know a gay person. I also told everyone I was Jewish for the same reason. Being that I am also partially Latino, I was a one-person diversity parade.

A fun fact about high school students is that they are, for the most part, terrible human beings. The mixture of insecurity and lack of experience cause kids to be horrible to each other, and naturally people who stick out end up receiving the majority of the bullying. Looking back, I’m kind of surprised at how open I was, considering I went to high school in a conservative, predominantly white and Christian community.

When I chose where to go to college, I chose the school furthest away from my hometown. I headed off to Cornell in upstate New York, an idyllic college that felt more like 4 years of sleep away camp than school. Being that Cornell was much more diverse and known to be liberal, I was surprised at how few out gay people I met when I got there. More pressing than the liberal bent of the campus is the preppy desire to be perfect. Thus, a lot of my gay classmates waited until they left that intensely competitive environment to come out of the closet.

And come out they did. A fun fact about Cornell students is that most of them move to New York City upon graduating. They do this to make peace with themselves for having spent the last four years in a tiny town that is constantly under a snow cloud. I moved there too, into a cute little apartment in Chelsea. I’d go out to crazy underground gay bars and for the first time, I started running into some of the guys I knew were gay in college but who were not out because they were in some fraternity or on Student Assembly.

And this is when I started to resent closeted people. Where had all these gay guys been when I was in college? Where had they been when I was in high school for that matter? I found it annoying that in the cut-throat, competitive college environment where it was trendy to be preppy and straight, everyone was. Meanwhile, me and the other dorky gays made up the visible gay community on campus. The closeted guys left it up to us to pave the way for them to come out of the closet in a city filled with gay bars and rainbow flags.

You get the sense when you come out early that you have somehow made it easier for everyone else to do so. This is likely true, as more visible gay people leads to a better understanding of the diversity within the gay community and greater acceptance from straight people. Knowing this makes it easy to resent people for staying in the closet. Another reason to be annoyed by closetedness is that closeted men make terrible partners. Firstly, they decrease the dating pool by not being visible as potential mates. Second, they force you to engage in all sorts of conspiratorial acts to conceal their true identity to those around them. So yeah, closeted people pretty much suck.

I’ve had a chip on my shoulder about closeted people for a long time. Mainly that I felt they were relying on people like me do their job for them. Their job being to go out into the world and be like “Hey There. I am a huge homosexual and I am also totally okay. Get over it.”

I’ve recently met a few guys who have challenged my ideas about coming out of the closet. These men, who didn’t come out until they’d hit their 30s, spent their entire youths clinging to the heteronormative fantasy life they’d always imagined they would have, always had been expected to have. Most gays experience some sort mourning process for the straight life they thought they’d have. Because we live in a society that defines success by our ability to fit into some kind of cookie cutter life (love, marriage, house, babies), it’s hard to say goodbye to the idea that you are going to grow up to be a heterosexual. I remember, as a 12-year-old, planning on being gay in college and then turning straight when I graduated. I have no idea how I expected this to happen, but I did. I believe many closeted guys believe in that kind of magical transformation, that if they just try hard enough their life will fit into the mold they want it to.

Most of the closeted guys I’ve met have had some sort of intense external pressure (or perceived external pressure) to hide themselves. One friend cites his father’s constant derogatory slurs about gay people as the reason he’s not out to him at age 34. As much as I think he needs to tell his dad so his dad can, like, meet an actual gay person, I understand his hesitation.

Hearing stories like his makes me realize I need to recognize my own privilege. My childhood looked something like this:

littleorlando

I was allowed to wear whatever I wanted. I was allowed to play with whatever I wanted, whether it be a doll or a pile of dirt (I liked both). I wasn’t raised to feel weird about any of that. It wasn’t until I got older that the other kids policed me on what was “normal.” Growing up like this gave me a sense of entitlement about acceptance. I’ve never understood homophobic people, because to me they just seem backwards and uneducated. I’ve always felt entitled to acceptance, and written off anyone who didn’t approve of my gayness as a bucktooth yokel (to be honest, most of the time they were).

I realize this is not the case with everyone. Some people have family members who are otherwise intelligent human beings that for some reason have a mental blockage against gays. These are the people who are likely to be closeted. And it just doesn’t seem fair to be mad at closeted gays who grow up around these types of weirdos.

So how do we deal with our closeted friends? The answer to this one is boring. I think the key here is to wait them out, while showing them that it’ll be okay when everyone knows they’re gay. Being intolerant about their decision to be closeted just gives them another reason to be alienated from the gay community.

Saying goodbye to the anger we have for those who remained closeted while we were out there being gay, making it okay for them to be gay is an act of liberation. Sure, it’s annoying to wait for people to step out of the closet. But as cheesy as it sounds, each person has his own journey. As much as we know it’s good for the community to come out, we can’t force closet gays to come out. But we can be patient, non-judgmental, and try to understand their reasoning for remaining closeted. Most of us clung to that closet door at sometime or another.

Love,
Orlando

PS: What is your story? When did you come out as a gay? As an ally? As a homophobe? Tell me everything.

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48 Comments

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48 responses to “Forgiving Those Who Take Forever To Come Out

  1. Kevin Orlin Johnson

    It’ll be interesting to see the response to this one, Orlando. Basically it’s about one of the things that most puzzles me about my gay friends and associates: so many demand acceptance for their own choices but refuse to respect the choices of others. This one may rank on the Richter Scale alongside the one about why gay guys hate their bodies!

  2. I really like what you said about how you always felt entitled to acceptance- I wish more people felt this way!

  3. Susan Day

    Your post today is one of the best, if not the best , thing I have ever read on the Internet. Thank you.
    ( straight, middle class, wife, mother, artist, from london, Ontario, Canada, who for reasons other than sexual orientation relates to being ‘the other’ )

    Xo

    • I feel the same about many things Orlando writes.. phenomenal stuff.
      And same here: Happily in love with my husband & five offspring, living in the sticks of northern Minnesota.
      Thoughts have been triggered.. Going to read all these comments & then chime in on this topic as it indirectly relates to me.

  4. FVK

    Everyone has there own path so you shouldn’t resent people who are still in the closet…who knows…maybe they like it there lol.

    • micj

      To each their own, own but I get being a little irked by people who allow others to do the heavy lifting then reap benefits of those before them. I am a professional woman working in a male dominated field, and I know it comes courtesy of generations before me. Feminists of today feel the same way about today’s women that don’t appreciate the hard fight. I get this

  5. Eva Marie

    I remember in college when my first friend to come out announced he was gay. I was incredibly honored that he had trusted me with that information. On a fundamental level, I just don’t understand why the choices other people make that don’t directly affect me are any of my business. I extend that curtesy to everyone and expect it in return. What does really piss me off is when others tell me what I can and cannot do if it doesn’t affect them. I now vocally support the gay community (and liberal causes generally) just so people in the relatively conservative place I live realize that there are other opinions than the majority.

  6. jeff

    Try coming out in the late 1970’s in North Carolina, after being the president of the youth group at your Southern Baptist church….UGH.
    I did it finally in the 80’s but it wasn’t always an easy journey

  7. kc

    As one of those who wished a “hetero-normative” lifestyle, I myself didn’t come out until I was 27. There was a self-imposed pressure to not come out due to my very conservative upbringing (Catholic, father was an ex-marine and a cop). When I eventually did, he buried his head in his hands and then after a few minutes, he said, “You’re my son, and I still love you,” and those were the most important words I’ve ever heard in my entire life. It meant that I could finally be who I always knew I needed to be. I wish more closeted gays could have stories like your or mine.

  8. Lindz

    I met my friend when we were 16. I knew he was gay maybe instantly, but, without a doubt, by the time we went to university. He didn’t come out of the closet or even to me until we were 29 years old. Now granted, there were many years through university, grad school, etc where we lived in different cities and saw each other spordically at best. But, still. Long.Time. It actually made me angry at times. It felt like he was being dishonest with me. It felt like he didn’t trust me. Which hurt. But, it’s all water under the bridge now. In hindsight, it was his story to tell when he was ready to do so. My only role in that story is his friend. And as his friend, I love him and whomever he loves, just so long as they love him as much as I do.

  9. rae

    This is such a well written post Orlando! I love your blog so much, but I don’t know if I’ve ever commented. I am a straight woman so I don’t have a coming out story, but I did come out as an ally, which was hard for me at the time! I live in South and my in laws and a lot of my family are very involved in some very anti gay organizations. I remember at 19 getting up the courage to put a human rights campaign sticker on my car. My now mother in law knew what it was and flew into a rage and I felt so great when my boyfriend at the time, now my husband stood up for me and told his mother that he couldn’t be a bigot no matter how much she wanted him too. Now she avoids the topic when we are around because she knows she won’t get silent listeners anymore.

  10. Great post.

    I don’t have an amazing story of when I became an “ally”, which I guess is what I am. I grew up in Germany (and a few years in Korea) on a military base, where everyone came from diverse backgrounds and nobody really looked the same. So, for me, I’ve always been open and accepting of everyone, and maybe I’m just naive, but I remember most of the people in my schools growing up to be the same. Sure, there were a couple of jerks (cause there’s really no escaping them) but for the most part, everyone accepted everyone. I don’t remember the moment where I learned what gay meant, it was always just a known for me, for as long as I can remember. I found, as I moved to the U.S in 2001, that people here are way less accepting, and I find myself debating way more often then I would like on why everyone should have the same rights regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. It’s actually quite annoying. I’ve also met more than a few “down low” gays, which really is the only issue I have with some gays. Being closeted is one thing, being deceitful is another. But that’s a discussion for another day.

    I don’t even know what the point of my comment was anymore, lol. Again, great post. 😉

  11. I came out to my family 2 and a half years ago. The day I came out to my mom was the same day she met my boyfriend. It was an intense day and I probably lost half the hair on my head. Religious reasons were behind me waiting until I was 21, but since then I have changed and grown in leaps and bounds for the better times a thousand. Looking back I almost wish I had come out in high school and had owned it and been as awesome and bad ass as I could be, but then I wouldn’t be where I am today with an amazing man and friends I probably wouldn’t have ever met.

  12. Brad P

    Your comments on college really resonated. I grew up in Canada, but went to university in the UK. I was out to my friends and most of my family in Canada and the US by age 19 or 20, but was no out at university. It was almost the fraternity/student assembly thing: I was on the crew team and competing at a really high level, and has this fear that if I came out, I’d be off the team.

    But the biggest impediment really was the lack of other out people. When I looked around, I could see literally no one (okay, no one cute or that I’d want to hang out with) who was out. So the calculation to me was “okay, I could come out, but then I’d not be rowing any more and I’d STILL not be getting laid.” It made sense at the time, and of course the number of my crew mates who’ve ended up coming out is kinda funny.

    But a big part of me wonders whether everyone was in the same boat – just waiting for one or two more people to come out to make a critical mass that showed it was worth it.

    And this isn’t even that long ago – 1994-99.

  13. I found this post to be extremely interesting. I didn’t come out to my family until I was 23. I hd a serious boyfriend that my family didn’t know about and I had been slowly stepping into being out and gay for about a year. I always knew I was gay and didn’t feel like it was bad, I just didn’t like the fact that I needed to tell people. There was also some fear behind it too. I was heavily involved in my church and didnt think it would be recieved well. So my point is, that because I came out after college, I am always fascinated by people who came out early. My boyfriend came out when he was in high school and it thrills me to hear his stories from that time. I think you’re right, everyone has their own path. And while I wish that I had been brave enough to be gay in high school and college, I wasn’t. But I am who I am now because of that.

  14. Growing up, my uncle always brought his male roommate to family occasions. It was just normal to me. His father, my grandfather, was as bigoted as they come but he didn’t seem to mind that his son always had a male “friend” with him so none of us did either. I grew up going to Catholic school but I don’t recall a “gay agenda” back then. When my uncle finally came out to me after I graduate from HS, I wondered why he didn’t think I already knew. I think acceptance, for the most part, is inherent. Either you have it or you don’t. I loved that he trusted me with his lifestyle and sort of educated me by bringing me to places like The Castro, etc. I love my gays.

  15. Awesome post about a topic not discussed often enough. I myself came out to almost everyone in my life around the age of 16, minus the grandparents and the like (I’ll let them find out through the inevitable wedding). Though I had a deep feeling that I was a homosexual, I was hesitant to jump the gun before most of puberty had passed, since that’s one hell of a move to take back.

    I understand that it seems like a natural move to “inform” someone that they’re gay before they come out, but in reality this simply makes it more difficult for them. For them to eventually come out after that point, they must not only admit that they are gay, but that you were right while they were wrong. Thus I agree with your strategy to “wait it out”, since time is the best way for them to find themselves.

    With that said, I have several friends and coworkers who I feel will never come out of the closet. They’ve spent most of their lives in an attempt to be normal, and to be gay in this age requires a sort of “Look at me, I’m different!” For some people, it’s literally worth it to fake being straight your whole life for the purposes of fitting in, keeping the family happy, and having kids “the real way”. I must admit, it took me a while to learn to respect this type. It is a lifestyle that takes a great deal of perseverance, and it is one that everyone is entitled to.

    I feel like in the long run, it is best to trust someone when they state their sexual orientation. Even if I know otherwise, it isn’t my place to decide what they divulge to others.

    • Jordan

      “I understand that it seems like a natural move to “inform” someone that they’re gay before they come out, but in reality this simply makes it more difficult for them. For them to eventually come out after that point, they must not only admit that they are gay, but that you were right while they were wrong. Thus I agree with your strategy to “wait it out”, since time is the best way for them to find themselves.”

      Thank you for this. When I am frustrated by my dear friend’s refusal to come out to those of us who love him and want him to be happy (I know/we all know he is gay despite him never telling us), I will remember these words. I would never want to make it more difficult on him when he does decide to share this part of his life with us.

    • micj

      Wow, I liked that. I think I may be too judgey regarding people who don’t come out or stand up or what have you. After all It is about respect all the way around

  16. kpk

    i found your story because of louis’s link from facebook, and thought i would share with you a link to piece that was published last month. it takes a few minutes to read. http://mariashriver.com/blog/2013/02/the-permission-to-live-openly-kevin-kendrick. speaks to much of the discussion you thoughtfully shed light upon.

  17. Joanna

    As an ally, I sometimes have issues with closeted people as well because, while you are out there paving the way for them, I am thinking, how much more accepting can I appear for you to feel comfortable. But you make a great point. In the end, no matter how much you pave the way for them or offer support, people are ready when they are ready.

  18. Lesley

    Just have to say that photo of you is adorable. My little boy wore his sister’s dresses, etc, and had to have his own fairy/butterfly wings or whatever other thing she wanted. Now that they’re in kindergarten and the other boys have opinions about that sort of thing, he’s mostly stopped except at home when he gets into playing with his sister. I’ve never encouraged him one way or another and don’t give a darn what he ends up wanting to wear or who he wants to be with, but even though I’m pretty sure he’s straight it makes me sad to see him becoming susceptible to/aware of the pressures and prejudices out there.

    • For the sake of discussion & in the idea that meaningful conversation can change the world.. I have to chime in.
      I have four sons (and a daughter.) My youngest is, like your son, a kindergartener. My oldest are twins, who are now 15, the age Orlando says he came out. At 15, I can see where these guys have a pretty solid idea of their interests & orientations. (Though this may not be standard for every kid.. there are late bloomers, we all develop at our own rate.) Kindergarten however.. For you to say that you’re pretty sure he’s straight, I had to back track & re-read your comment to see how old your son is.. Kindergarten. Here’s where my chiming in comes to play…
      I don’t think kindergarteners should be thought of as gay or straight.. they are simply children. With minds & imaginations & creativity, that will grow & mature into whatever they’ll be.
      I don’t think it’s right to peg or guess at a kindergartener’s sexual orientation, when they haven’t even come close to sexually mature beings yet. My kindergartener wants to marry me & snuggles in bed whenever possible. I definitely don’t think that he’s going to want to do that for life. He’s a child. He loves his mom & his dad & his dog & his toy story figures and his kindergarten teacher.
      One of the greatest aspects of parenthood to me is the wonder of what our kids will become. We can only watch them grow & wait & see.
      It sounds like you have an open mind, and that’s good.. I think you’ll need it a little longer.
      On another note, I totally agree & understand what you’re saying about feeling sad about social susceptibilities. I felt the same way and I shared thoughts on that here: http://ourfunwithfive.blogspot.com/2009/07/fashion.html
      I was proved wrong about our boys, though, as here is the youngest, a couple of years later: They are each unique!
      http://ourfunwithfive.blogspot.com/2011/10/who-needs-halloween.html

      • Lesley

        I don’t think he’s already gay or straight yet and am in no rush to find out. I only I phrased it that way because I do think people are born one way or the other. I don’t want to say he has yet to decide, as if it’s a decision.

  19. EQi

    Great blog as always.

    Leaving the matter of coming out aside, I see how your thoughts, feelings, options, and/or judgments have changed/evolved. I’ve done the same as I age, as I’ve noticed how I think of something differently in my 20’s, 30’s, and now 40’s.

    Some of my strong feelings, esp. the negative ones, have changed over time and that thru the years, I’ve become more understanding and tolerant.

    We all have our own path. Everyone has his/her own karma, while gay folks’ karma’s comparatively heavier than straights’ in general. At the end of the day, we can only control and change ourselves, never others.

  20. James

    Dear Orlando,
    I came out almost three years ago…at the age of 45. We all have our own journey and I’m glad you shared yours with the world. I now have a gay friend, a workmate, who is in denial and won’t acknowledge who he really is, because of family, etc. I tell him everyday that we speak, “It’s your journey and only you know how to travel it each and every day”. We should all remember this…my path is my path to walk, yours is yours, we should never judge, but encourage. Thanks again for sharing your story.

  21. Richard

    I was married for 19 years and finally came out at the age of 48. (Something about turning 50 rather soon made it more urgent). I accepted that I was gay around the age of 35 and up until that point I kept telling myself I was bi. But with three kids I plodded along playing the perfect dad and husband. I had to make everything perfect to convince the world that I was straight and to fill the void in my soul. It’s been three years since I have come out. Sometimes life has been hell and other times its been sheer bliss. Nowadays the better days are winning out. I have no regrets about coming out. Just wish I had accepted my truth earlier in life, as that would have lead to less pain for my family.

  22. Orlando – it is so odd that I can across this awesome post of yours on FB – my brother’s fiance and I just got into a pretty in depth discussion re: this exact thing at the Casa del Mar during a site visit for their wedding reception. Her uncle came out when he was 30, was newly married and had a new born while living in a small town in rural Texas, and I came out at age 16 in an affluent suburb of Washington, DC.

    I had always been perplexed regarding why kids didn’t come out in school while I was matriculating at Northwestern University. I graduated in 2008 and since there a veritable army of gay guys has arisen from my once relatively straight graduating class. Granted, I was in the theatre program, so everything being relative there were quite a few gay guys running around campus…but still, it felt to me like they had missed an opportunity. How nice it would have been for them to go gallivanting around with all the other young gay kids figuring out their crap! Granted, again, I myself was not quite a common fixture in the gay scene because I was too much of an anal-retentive student and made little time for said gallivanting, but still – I thought they would have enjoyed it.

    The real conversation came around guys who are married and come out later in life. I have for a while, for someone who is admittedly a total outsider regarding this particular issue, said that if a gay man wants to get married and live a straight life, I could care less – as long as they take responsibility for that decision and live that life – HARD though it may be. This was mostly a reaction to an article that I had read in college about a park in Chicago where straight married men go to have “encounters” with gay men…and I abhor infidelity regardless of the psychology behind it. I had felt that, fine, you are choosing to pretend to be straight…so live that life, but you can’t have your cake and eat it too. I felt, in a way as you described, you are making me do all the work while you quietly wait until it is “safe” to come out. Until the day where those of us who have been out have made it that way while you reap the benefits.

    ANYway…she had pressed that a lot of it has to do with the point of discovery. Her uncle was in a place where to be gay was dangerous…and everything in him fought his sexuality until finally he had to be honest with himself…and the second he was honest with hims self, he told his friends and family. Now THAT is far more admirable that anything I have gone through as a gay man. I had been raised in a compassionate, well-educated, loving environment where I knew my family loved me unconditionally. Coming out was more of an “oh yeah…pass the salt” kind of thing. Many are not so fortunate…many grow up in environments where they are shunned by not just their family but their entire community. I have always considered myself an empathetic person, and I have never judged anyone for making any decisions they make because I know there is no way I can ever understanding all the moving parts that go behind why anyone makes any kind of decision of impact, but talking to her and then reading this…I can say that the little chip on my shoulder has been effectively removed.

    Also. I think I have those wings. As a 26 year old. Yikes.

    Xx, Eric

  23. neo

    Loved reading this piece. Amazingly true BUT there are lot of things gay (hope I am not generalising) people do that are not accepted in any society Gay or Straight or Bisexual. Those things give us a certain stereotypical bad name and media certainly doesn’t help.

    Example: Queer As Folk, if my mother watched it and saw all those BathHouse scenes, I think for sure for some who is trying to accept her son being gay, would be a tad disturbing!

    I am 35, came out to my friends at the age of 30, to my mother at the age of 34. I think “coming out” is subjective to each person. Its not about coming out, its about feeling comfortable with who we/they are and been happy!!

  24. Orlando, the first thing that came to mind as I read this was:
    Seriously. Are you secretly a therapist or a psychologist on the side or something? Because you are brilliant, & I’ve always been fascinated with these professions & wanted to be one myself.
    And then the stories of the gay people I know began to unfold in my mind as I related to your words.
    We have a “friend”. When I met him, he was married with a cute, bubbly wife, two kids & a cookie cutter suburb life. And I could not BELIEVE how gay he was. It was plain as daylight. We talked about it to ourselves all the time. Sure enough.. a few years further on, we learned of the divorce and that he had come out. This betrayal to who he really was has been truly devastating to the life of his ex-wife. It resulted in turmoil & divorce & confusion for their kids as teens/ pre-teens. And it has caused me to do some wondering & analyzing of the situation. What (in my opinion) pretty much happened, is that his family dysfunction, coinciding with religious rigidness growing up (army family, devout Catholic mother, several older brothers, hidden problems galore) cycled into him not feeling safe in telling his family who he was, causing him to repress & hide his true being out of guilt & shame. This had to have been a horribly painful struggle for him, and it ultimately went on to hurt others & the next generation, too.
    Now, years later, the kids are doing well, he is very happy & successful, living his life openly at about 50 years old. His partner is adorable & loveable. But there was definitely damage done.. The ex-wife mostly. She thought she was saying “I do” for life. And what about all the years of lying & hiding & sneaking? Those are years he could have lived openly & happily, and cannot get back.
    You are so lucky that you knew you would be accepted.
    Unconditional, loving acceptance is the greatest asset on earth when it comes to family function. Guilt, shame, & religion (in my opinion) seem to be a huge reason for dysfunction & disagreement.
    It’s that “intense external pressure” you mentioned. Some people have to live with it. Maybe offering unconditional love & support (perhaps in the form of patience, waiting it out at times.) Is the best we can do for people who don’t have that coming from their families.
    In a perfect world, we’d all give that love & keep passing it on to our next generations.. and hopefully there will be less people hiding “in closets.” and less “bucktooth yokels.” Less hurt & hiding. More happy.
    Now, we have another “friend” who has mystified me all my life. Maybe some people have been scarred somewhere in life and are simply “confused?” Then I guess time & understanding are what they need too. We sure don’t understand him. But we love him.

  25. Pingback: A Postmarked Message to Myself | Yellow Brick Missives

  26. Your post really resonates with a lot of folks trying to find themselves, or at least those trying to unlock a particular part of themselves. While I didn’t come out as early as you, I’ve definitely encountered the same antipathy plenty of LGBT’s have for those who remain closeted. At first, I, too, was infuriated. Because, really, it wasn’t that hard, right?

    And that’s when I realized that, actually, it was extremely difficult. But I’m so happy I did. The best thing anyone can do for a closeted person is to be open and honest with them about your experience, and help them in any way that you can. Even if they don’t yet want to be a part of the LGBT community, we can at least let them know that there’s always room for more.

    Thanks for this post. It inspired me to write a blog post, too!
    http://www.yellowbrickmissives.com/2013/03/13/a-postmarked-message-to-myself/

    Best wishes!

    Matt

  27. I’m pretty sure I accidentally deleted my first reply/comment. But I just wanted to write again that this post certainly resonates. After going through a period where I was infuriated with closeted people, I now know that the best recourse is to be open and honest with them about your particular experience. That, and to let them know that they, too, will be welcomed into the LGBT community whenever they feel it’s right.

    Your post is definitely inspiring, so much so that it pushed me to pen a post on my blog addressing this same topic!

    http://www.yellowbrickmissives.com/2013/03/13/a-postmarked-message-to-myself/

    Thanks!

  28. I never really “came out”. I think when I was born that was pretty much my “coming out”. Like you, I was allowed to do and be anything I wanted. I played barbies better than any girl on the block, always matching her clothes and accessories, and playing double dutch to all of the cute little songs we would jump to. I always knew that I was different but I didn’t know there was a word associated with it until around middle school. My parents, who were two military sergeants, never treated me any differently or associated any kind of negative stigma to any of my mannerisms so I never grew up thinking that anything about me was “wrong”. They treated, and still do, treat my gayness the same way they treat the color of my skin. I had no control over it and it doesn’t define who I am. Because of that, I go through all aspects of life in this manner but I do also understand why closeted men and women remain closeted. Not everyone was allowed to naturally be themselves and come into their own the way that I was. And while I find it annoying to have to be “patient” with closeted men and women, I do understand because as you said, they are on their own journey and will come out in their own time. However, I will say that I have encountered a few closted people who, after coming out, let me know that they resented me for being as “out and open” as I’ve always been and not understanding why I never went through the stereotyped struggles that they assume that all gay guys and girls have to go through before “coming out”. I’m not angry at them for their assessment, but I do still understand where they are coming from.

  29. Carlos

    Great post! Just like we we don’t understand why some people can’t be comfortable around gays, some gays aren’t comfortable stepping out of the closet. I’ll be 30 in a fee months and it saddens me not being comfortable coming out to my parents or close friends. It’s that I don’t want to, but I feel it’s not my time and I don’t think my parents are ready to hear it either. I didnt know gays that were out resented those who weren’t, but I hope more people read this and can accept others’ decisions just like you have Orlando.

  30. J

    I think most of this article could have been edited down to the first two sentences. I agree that “coming out” is an awful term, especially for those of us who don’t ever feel we were in a space of denial. I came to terms with my sexuality when I was 30. Getting there was a longer process than many, but it wasn’t as if I was sneaking around and hiding who I was. Sexually, for a very long time, I just didn’t know. And, when I sat down to think about it (yes, an unorthodox way of dealing with it, but a necessary way when you compartmentalize large swaths of your life) it was more clear. Should I have come to this realization sooner? Maybe. I could have put a focus on it earlier in life. But, I didn’t. Still, that doesn’t mean I was hiding part of myself from the world for a long time.

    In a related vein, I envied those who were so confident in their sexuality earlier than I was. Those of us who discovered it/came to terms with it later missed what I think were some seminal experiences. It isn’t as integrated into our lives, which may put us at a disadvantage, in some ways, in building a circle of friends of similar persuasion. That, I think, is the real consequence of discovering this part of myself later in time. Perhaps you can find comfort in that — it’s much more difficult to integrate this into your life at a later age, yet infinitely better than never discovering it at all.

    I’m glad you understood that about yourself much earlier in life, and that you don’t hold a grudge against those of us who took longer to figure it out.

  31. M

    As a straight woman, I wonder how much stereotypes and preconceived notions play into the coming-out process. The out guys I knew growing up in HS and college in the ’90s and early ’00s definitely fit the popular conception of gay men — flamboyant, funny, dramatic, feminine, etc — and usually found their social niches in creative areas. On the other hand, I knew one college friend was gay as soon as I met him but he didn’t come out until five years later, and while he enjoys some stereotypical aspects of gay culture, he’s also a science professional who’s involved in sports, loves country music, is still a Christian, etc. He’s from a rural area, and I think not seeing visible gay culture that fit his interests and personality was part of what held him back for a long time, because not everybody who’s gay necessarily likes the same things.

    I think as the popular notion of what “gay” is shifts away from a whole set of behaviors and interests (in childhood my friend was never into Barbies or dressing up like a girl, for example, not that there’s anything wrong with doing so) people will feel more comfortable coming out because they’ll be able to see themselves in the “gay” identity. If I had to come out as “female” based on traditional notions of what that meant, I’d have stayed “closeted” forever! If gender stereotypes can change, I think sexual identity ones can too.

  32. Terrance Chadd

    Well said. Everyone should be allowed to come to his or own terms no matter what or when it is. What’s sad is those who hide their whole life of who they are. My heart goes out to them.

  33. I love this post. You’re awesome.

  34. Pingback: Blogs that rock: a case study | The Em Dash

  35. Lori

    I had a housemate in college who was a lesbian but planned to be straight after college. I never understood that and felt bad for her girlfriend (although frankly, her girlfriend was a way better person who could totally do better). We aren’t friends so I don’t know how it turned out. I didn’t really like her much by the end of school, but I hope for her sake she’s found a way to be honest and happy with herself.

  36. Taryn

    I came out at the same age you did and was the only out lesbian in a very small town in an extremely small high school. Knowing myself I just knew I would never be able to keep such a large part of myself hidden even though I’m a cis-gendered female and present very femme so I technically could have. It’s just always been of utmost importance to me for people to know me, truly know me, and make of me what they will for better or worse based on that truth. Keeping “the real me” inside would have killed me, literally killed me. I feel and have always felt such great sadness for those who for whatever reason couldn’t be as open as I was with their friends, family and community. Such a horrible burden on your soul. P.s. I just moved to where you grew up about 5 months ago!

  37. I can understand where you are coming from, but I think it is a rather ironic view from a gay man. Gays have had to struggle with acceptance for a good part (if not all of) the last century, and many continue today.

    The fact that you came out at fifteen is very admirable. To be able to have such insightful and confident realisation of self at such a young age is rare and a gift. But it is rare.

    It also sounds like you had a very supportive family behind you. While it might have been hard to take the first step in coming out, something deep down must have told you that you thought you would be supported.

    Not everyone has the fortune of support. Speaking from my own path, I come from a Roman Catholic family with an Italian father. Gays were talked about at the dinner table as evil or sinners or plain weak. My dad had said things like all gays should be taken to te desert to live by themselves. Or all gays should be fixed. Coupled with living in a small town with very few progressive people, the prospect of ever feeling safe about coming out was negligible.

    The psychological effect on me was immense. I never expressly shared my dads views. I always had no issue with gay people and considered my dad’s opinion as outdated and a product of insular thinking.

    However, the possibility of losing my family’s acceptance an support must always have weighed on the back of my mind and I somehow convinced myself that, while it was okay for others to be gay, there was no way that I could possibly be a gay man.

    It took me 24 years to finally accept myself and to be prepared to tell others.

    I am now on the fringe of 30. My friends and most of my family know. I am in a wonderful relationship with a man, who has been by my side for 2 years. However I am still yet to come out to my dad. It pains me everyday and it has only been delayed as I am living abroad. As soon as I return home I will be making that final step.

    Coming out isn’t a privilege, owed to the gay community. It is a personal plight. It is a journey of self acceptance. One which can be hampered if one does not feel safe.

    I think it is fantastic how accepted gays are becoming. It is virtually universal. However while this might increase the chances of people feeling safe when they come out, it will still ultimately be a personal journey for each gay man and woman. You cannot resent others for going through this process slower than yourself.

  38. Mariana

    one day, i realized it was AS normal and ok to be gay as it was to be straight. That as there were straight people there were gay people and always had been, and that not because reproduction was only possible for straight people (i hate the word straight, makes it sound that homosexuality is crooked) it means that not being heterosexual is some sort of “wrong”. Sexuality goes beyond reproduction.

    i think i came to understand this a bit more, since the mexican society tends to be very conservative as well, when i accepted my bisexuality. Then found out a study (which i cant properly quote at the time) that said that sexuality in the majority of human beings isn’t OR gay OR “straight” but actually a spectrum. I find it hard sometimes to “come out of the closet” with my bisexuality too. But even the frase of coming out of the closet is as you say so constrictive, it shouldn’t exist. People shouldn’t HIDE, less so beacause some white closeted military religious homophobic dumb uncultured person disapproves!!!!

    great post orlando!

  39. Mark

    I only wish I had the courage and support to come out. At 47, I know I am gay. I have lied to myself and others for my entire life.
    As I sit here watching my 15 year old daughter finishing her homework, I wonder why it would scare me so much to admit to her who I really am.
    My first real love was a guy I met not long out of college. He was completely out and I was terrified to admit who I was. I know I hurt him and sadly, he was the one true love of my life.
    I recently contacted him on the internet and apologized for my being so stupid, so long ago. It was a very terse conversation though I do feel better for finally attempting to fix my complete screw up and the pain it may have caused him.
    I hope young gays will embrace your story and not give up on having real happiness in their lives. The pressures to fit to some neo-con belief that being gay is a choice or a psychological affliction is wrong.
    I’ve know since kindergarten that I wasn’t the same as many of the other boys. I’ve know since junior high that I wasn’t all that impressed by the changes in the girls’ bodies. And, I’ve known for 26 years, that because of family, societal and church pressures, my life has been a lie.

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