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tattooLast week, my older son came to visit from Wyoming, where he lives, and brought something new with him. A tattoo. And this has got me thinking – about tattoos, and identity, and coming out.

This development was a bit disconcerting. I’m not a big fan of tattoos. I don’t mind if you or anyone else has one – or more than one. I just don’t want one myself. And I had sort of assumed my boys would have the same view.

After the initial surprise, though, I began to think about the characteristics of this particular tattoo, and it reminded me of my own gay identity.

First, like all tattoos, it’s permanent. It will be with him for the rest of his life. Second, it’s visible, but it is – for a tattoo, at least – rather discrete. It’s in the middle of his back and when he’s wearing a shirt, you can’t see it. Third, it is intrinsically bound up with who he is. His tattoo is a symbol incorporating a snowflake, and it marks him as an avid – dare I say, obsessive – skier. (Which is why he lives in Wyoming.)

And all that reminds me of how it is to come out and live out.

First, when I stepped out, I knew there was no going back. I’m out for the rest of my life. Second, while I’m certainly not hiding it, I also know when to be discrete. I don’t lead every conversation with the fact that I’m gay. It’s a part of me, but not the whole of me. I’m me. I just happen to be gay. It’s like my son and the tattoo. He’s a nice, good-looking, 27-year-old guy who happens to have a tattoo on his back.

Third, and most important, is the fact that being gay is basic to who I am. For the moment at least, skiing is basic to my son’s life. He can’t live without being on the slopes, and the tattoo says so. I can’t live (at least not fully) without living as a gay man. And being out says so.

And here’s another important thing. My son is really proud of his tattoo. He thinks it’s totally great and he wanted me to see it. Well, I’m proud of my “tattoo” too. I’m proud of who I am and that I’m (finally) out. And I want the world to know it.

Like getting a tattoo, coming out should involve serious consideration. I’ve said this before. It’s not something to be taken lightly. So if you’re thinking about stepping out, it might help to think of it as getting a tattoo. It’s permanent. It can be discrete or blatant – your choice – but it marks you forever. It’s a part of who you are.

And, it’s something to be proud of.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Michelle permalink
    05/24/2013 6:32 PM

    David, It is an extraordinary blessing to know you. I am proud of you and thankful to have a friend who practices the art of living out loud. 😀

    • 05/24/2013 11:13 PM

      It’s good to know you as well. Thanks.

  2. 06/04/2013 8:36 PM

    Good for you. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to hide such a basic part of who you are. And I like that you said “part.” Wishing for the day when we no longer feel a need to make distinctions like “gay writer”…how about just “great writer.”

    • 06/04/2013 9:34 PM

      “Great writer” would certainly work for me. Working on that angle every day.

  3. 02/26/2014 6:09 PM

    Beautiful sentiment, expressed beautifully. Permanent, discreet, intrinsic, public. I’m not fully out yet, but this is helpful in shaping my thoughts about the process. As you said, “coming out should involve serious consideration.” And like a tattoo, I hope that one day my identity as a gay man will be a source of pride. Thanks David.

    • 02/27/2014 3:38 PM

      You are welcome and best of luck as you contintue your journey.

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