It just so happens I’m sitting down to write this on the weekend of SF Pride, but it’s been an observation in the back of my head for years now. I am highly aware that no matter how I put this, it will sound a bit asinine, a bit armchair pundit. Maybe a sprinkling of blaming the victim or general uninformed-ness. I can only speak from my own perspective and the background of having grown up in a queer-friendly household. So to all my LGBTQ readers and friends, I don’t mean to offend you whether you’re out or not. It is simply my hope that you are publicly comfortable with who you are and one day being gay won’t be such a “thing.”
When it comes to catching up with hometown friends, a typical conversation topic of choice is Who’s Gay Now? I’ve followed up a number of post-high school catch-up sessions by typing in the full names of old classmates into Facebook just to verify the alleged information. I always wonder if they’ll be “out” about it on their profiles. It’s a nosy habit, I know. I do the same thing when I hear someone is pregnant or So And So is married.
I can think of only one instance of a high school friend coming out that shocked me. For all the other cases, it was more like “Well, finally! That’s a relief.” It’s not that all these once-closeted folk display particularly flamboyant or butch or stereotypically homosexual characteristics. It’s just that there seems to be something about closeted individuals that overshadows or influences every aspect of their personalities. I can only venture a guess, but I think it’s just that they’re holding back.
I feel like I have a dwindling number of friends who give off a sense of insecurity or of not being themselves. I say dwindling because the number decreases as they come out with whatever it is that has constrained their individuality. Not every insecure person is queer. Not every queer person is insecure. But in situations where a queer person’s environment discourages them from being secure, I sense a great deal of suffering. Like the person is burdened every day and with every casual conversation they have and every microexpression they make.
Basically, I think it sucks. Because with the friends I have grown up with and who have told me how they finally came out to their parents, I feel their relief. They smile genuinely big smiles. I get deja vu every time they say “Finally, right??” to me before I get a chance to respond. Hokey as it is, it makes me envision light radiating from their bodies.
I feel like they become more like themselves after that point. I feel more relaxed because they feel more relaxed. The little things are more fun. It’s easier to live in the moment. I’m hesitant to say a person “changes” after they come out, because aren’t they just declaring what they already were? – And yet, that’s what I’ve felt much of the time. They become more them.
It may seem hypocritical, that I wanted closeted individuals to come out and yet I don’t want coming out to be a thing. But what I’m really wrestling with is just the thought of people feeling shut in, like they have to hide anything about themselves. It frustrates me to think they can’t be 100% themselves 100% of the time. It’s not a fair compromise that seems to be put on closeted people. This is an unnatural degree of filtration that is simply a ridiculous expectation to force on someone’s personality.
I just wish you weren’t burdened by a part of your identity. An internalized hegemony put you at war with yourself, and I wish it wasn’t so. I wish you all could just be out already.