I came to the height of my pessimism the other night during a conversation about coming out. Inspired by gay pride last week, I want to talk about my ideals on the process of coming out.
Coming out is very important. I knew exactly what it meant to me after watching the documentary on Harvey Milk and hearing about how he called for gays (now, queers) to come out of our chilly little closets so people could see our faces and our place in humanity. I knew that it was time for me to step up to my parents and say, in my own words, that I am gay.
My thoughts on the closet are not the same as everyone else’s. I am so lucky to have progressive parents who think the sun shines out of my ass, and who instantly got past the fact that I was going to be saying a girl’s name in place of boy’s during pedantic phone calls home. This is not to say the closet didn’t kill me for many months: wandering around UCSB, ducking into buildings when I saw those rainbow pegs during pride, walking inches from Queer Student Union meetings only to flee in the other direction, making up excuses about why it wasn’t for me: “Not now. I’ll tell someone later.” Hearing other peoples’ stories, I realize how lucky I am to have experienced that difficult fear for only two years.
Coming out serves many purposes. Most obviously, it helps you hook up. How will you ever meet someone of the same sex who is interested, casually, if you don’t identify yourself in a world of “straight”? More importantly, in a time when the world is slowly beginning to see the queers as human beings (boo California), coming out helps normalize this thing.
This is not just your flamboyant gym teacher or your soft-butch hairdresser. This is your professor, your doctor, your family member, your friend. This is ubiquitous; not like a disease, but an element of humanity, and we need to shed light on that by raising our voices.
Despite all this, I was still plagued the other night with the question: Why is my sexuality my parents’ business? Is their straightness my business? My sexuality when I dated men was never something I discussed with my father. And I never had my father come up to me and say, “Alison, you know, I’ve been meaning to tell you, I’m attracted to women.”
I know now that I have to tell people I’m gay (or I like pussy and form emotional attachments to women) so that people in the future won’t have to admit this personal information. AS IF THERE IS SOMETHING TO ADMIT!
I believe everyone is queer. We are all on a sexual continuum, allowing people to come in and out of our sexual awareness, and, inevitably, there is someone of the same sex who we would all change our minds for. Someone who we could/would/should make an expectation for. Like my friend says, “You’re only straight till you’re gay!”
For now, I will claim my sexuality, so one day people won’t have to say first “I’m gay,” before they say “Hey Mom, this is so-and-so, and I deeply care about them.” “I’m gay” should not be as relevant as “This is who I, with the one life I have, choose to love.” THE ONE LIFE WE HAVE, PEOPLE!
No one should be expected to tell their parents whose genitalia they’d rather arouse or the pronoun of whose heart they are more apt to fall in love with. Both the emotional and sexual aspects of me have never seemed like anything other than my business. But this is the world we live in. One where it is deemed necessary to tell your parents flat out what you prefer, or else hide from it the best you possibly can. I can’t wait till there is another way, and not the assumption of straight, but for now we must come out to correct our parents’ presumptions.
Until then, please speak up and let us nip this thing in the next decade, shall we? I know this is no easy matter; I did say my ideals.