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Come on out, but remember this …

07/26/2011

Being gay is not the most interesting thing about you. Or it certainly shouldn’t be.

Come out. Yes. I’ve been beating that drum quite a bit, most recently in my last post. When you do, you’ll likely be so glad, so relieved, you’ll wonder what took you so long. But, that very enthusiasm could get you into trouble before you know it.

I’m not talking about legal trouble, or sex and dating insecurities, or even a sudden irresistible urge to take off your shirt before hitting the dance floor – rarely a successful gambit if you’re over 30. The trouble I’m talking about is purely social. If you’re not careful, you could become a bore. Not exactly what you had in mind as you step out into your new life, right?

The fact is this: No one will find your coming out transformation as interesting as you do. And that’s true of your gay friends as well as your straight ones.

I know this from personal experience. Following a brief, initial period of awkwardness – when I was still uncomfortable saying the g-word, and feeling pretty freaked out by what I’d just done – I jumped into the deep end. I wanted to talk about it all the time. Express how I was feeling at the moment, ask questions about all sorts of things, dwell on how relieved and happy I felt, make gaydar speculations, talk about how to find datable men. It was endless. And, I’m afraid, it was also boring. Even to the core group of incredibly loyal friends who were there to help me.

Luckily, this phase didn’t last all that long, but I still have to watch it. There are people out there who simply do not want to hear about my sexuality. Some are uncomfortable talking about the issue altogether, others simply don’t care, and there are a number who have heard all about it and want to move on to other topics.

So, I curb my enthusiasm.

By this, I do not mean you should stay in hiding. Far from it! Come out, come out, come out! Sand up and be counted! That part is critically important – both for you and for the rest of us. But … you have to strike a balance.

A few thoughts:

  1. Being gay isn’t about sex – it’s about who we are – but inevitably, it involves sex, because that’s where our fundamental difference expresses itself. And lots of people simply aren’t comfortable talking about sex. Especially when it’s different from the sex they do. I refuse to believe these people bear me any ill will. They probably don’t want to talk about sex with their straight friends, either. Fine by me.
  1. While your new life may seem as fresh as an unfolding flower to you, with infinitely nuanced discoveries every day, that sort of detail is usually not all that interesting to others, gay or straight. So don’t make them listen. That’s what you pay a therapist for. If you need to unload and/or reflect on a lot of stuff – and you probably will – find a professional or a peer group to unload it on.
  1. There’s also this: Your thoughts and feelings are important. Don’t let anything I’ve said above make you think otherwise. You need to embrace them and deal with them. Same thing for friends. In fact, having friends to help you along the path is essential. You can’t do it – at least not very successfully – without them. But, as I’ve said, it’s about balance. Even your closest friends will eventually hit a limit.
  1. This is also about giving back. We all need help coming out – and that includes the next guy coming down the path. Once you are steady on your feet, keep your eyes open for a fellow traveler, and offer a helping hand if you can. But – and here’s the issue of balance, again – eventually everyone has to stand on his or her own two feet. Provide too much commiseration over too long a period of time, and you become the dreaded “enabler”. And that’s no favor to anyone.

So, to recap this ramble: It’s about balance. Come out. Seek friends (and professionals) for support as you work through it. Pull yourself together. Quit yapping about it. Move on.

Then, when it’s all – or mostly – better, look for someone you can help, like your friends helped you.

Photo: federico stevanin

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