Coming out of the closet to the parents is like trying to tell a joke. You need the right timing, the right tone and delivery. If just one element is slightly out of tune, it blows the whole process to shit.
Sometimes it’s best spontaneous; sometimes it helps to have humor. But no matter how much you plan, nothing beats a good natural flow.
Reflecting back on how I came out to my parents, I realize how important it was to keep things simple and to the point.
My first inclination was to go the after-school special route, breaking out into heartfelt tears as I laid my open soul before my parents in a plea for pity and love.
But that really wasn’t my style.
I considered telling them that, deep down inside, I felt the urge to become a woman, and that I was currently on hormone treatment with the final surgery coming up in June. Follow that statement with a “just kidding, I’m only gay,” and I could diffuse a lot of tension.
That seemed a little over the top, even for me. While I know mom and dad would’ve appreciated that after the fact, there probably would’ve been very little keeping them from either slapping me or cutting me out of the will.
Too much sarcasm can be a bad thing, even in my family.
So I opted for the simple yet forthright, “Yes, I have something to tell you. I’m gay.” I banked on the large meal and martinis from earlier that evening to dull any rage they might’ve felt.
After a brief exchange of awkward mumbles, my father tried to sympathize. He said he could understand enjoying the company of men, to which I quipped, “Yes, I just enjoy it more.”
My mother shuddered and asked me not to joke about it.
What followed seemed less like the shit storm I had expected and more like a fart in the wind.
Instead of accusations and endless questions about whether I was sure or not, my mother cracked open a vintage bottle of sherry and we toasted to my sexuality. It was a simple gesturing showing how much they cared.
The fallout wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. But I never squirmed so hard in my life as when my mother asked me about the blow jobs and hand jobs in my past or when my father told me that the male who receives the ejaculate has a higher risk of getting HIV.
I’m sure it was just as difficult for them to picture me having sex as it is for me to imagine them rolling around under the sheets. In fact, I like to think I was grown in a test tube, but the mild embarrassment was a small price to pay.
A pittance, really.
A significant number of men and women my age who come out of the closet to family and friends get an excommunication instead of a glass of vintage sherry.
I got damn lucky.
But the coming out process continues on through life; it’s a fact that few heterosexuals realize and one that many queer people forget about.
So show some support for those people who are going through tough times. Get out there and take in some of the events that are a part of Queer Pride Week. A large number of students put in a great deal of time and energy in planning events; show some support for these people with the courage to shed their invisibility for your benefit.
If you see or hear someone making nasty comments or tearing down signs, remind them that the people out there this week have twice the courage of any ignorant meat sack that speaks in a hushed grunt.
Daily Nexus Assistant Opinion Editor Steven Ruszczycky only came out of the closet so he could write about gay things. His column appears Tuesdays.