author: maeghan wild| contributor
I was thirteen years old when I was faced with a lifelong obligation I had no idea how to handle: telling people I was gay. Like most kids, I thought my upbringing was well rounded, and that it more or less prepared me for the real world; after all, what else is there once you’ve learned to walk, talk and stop eating Play-Doh? Additionally, my parents, being the overachievers they are, decided to teach me that I could do anything, be anything, believe anything, and no matter what, they would love me. I was luckier than most because threats of Hell, hatred, and abandonment didn’t weigh on my mind when I realized I was gay. All I had to worry about was the one thing a young teen, who just wants to fit in, hopes they never have to worry about: being different.
Whoever came up with the idea that being unique was amazing and somehow enlightening must have been painfully ordinary. The trouble with being unlike the people around you in a way that isn’t physical is it becomes your responsibility to let the normal people know you aren’t one of them. Society conditions people to look at everyone with straight-tinted glasses so, despite my stereotypically gay appearance, most people assume I am straight until I say otherwise. Theoretically, it’s a wonderful situation: nobody has to know until I transform myself like a magnificent gay butterfly and burst out of my heterosexual façade. In reality, being able to hide sexuality in plain sight until I was ready only created a tighter prison from which I had to escape. Heteronormativity makes it difficult not only to try to come out, but also to stay out.
Initially, I thought I would only have to come out a few times to close friends and family. Of course, the first time I came out, I didn’t know what the reaction would be. When I tentatively approached the subject with a friend, they simply replied, “That’s amazing!” The relief of that response gave me hope that the whole ordeal wouldn’t be so bad. After three years of my inner circle responding positively to my sexuality, I thought I was out for good; however, I realized the line of people I had to tell was growing infinitely longer. The more I had to do it, the more resentful I got of the whole process. Naturally, responses I had initially been so thankful to hear quickly lost their appeal.
The most common and infuriating utterance was, “I’m so proud of you.” What the hell does that mean? You’re proud of me? Pride would make sense if I had accomplished something important. I hadn’t even managed to kiss a girl yet. There is no triumph in sexual frustration. Despite the horrific realization that I was forever bound to this ritual I despised, I tried to stay optimistic. I told myself this was still the best possible outcome. Through each supportive hug and awkward smile, I kept a stone face. At least people were always encouraging; even the lady with the “Pray Away Gay” pamphlet smiled when she handed it to me.
Unfortunately, strangers and people I’ve just met can be less than supportive or even understanding in regards to my sexuality. It’s exhausting repeatedly jumping out of my closet to explain a very simple concept. How do I know I’m gay? The same way you know you’re straight. When did I choose to be gay? The same time you chose to be straight. I prefer bashing my head on the nearest wall to being bombarded with such asinine and invasive questions. Nobody asks people why they have a foot fetish. It’s commonly understood that a foot fetish is a foot fetish no matter what size the feet are, or how repulsive the concept of a foot fetish is. Attraction doesn’t suddenly work differently because it is directed towards the same sex. My social responsibility is to inform people that I am gay, not to explain why. Nothing about coming out entitles anyone, stranger or not, to details about my romantic life, my sex life, or my lack of both.
It’s always a tricky thing, telling people you’re gay. Funny that if I told anyone I liked blonde hair, blue eyes, a sense of humour, or explained why I find any other superficial features on a person attractive, no one would bat an eyelash. I don’t lose sleep over the appropriate ways to discuss that I like blondes. With these simple conversations, my time beforehand isn’t spent trying to gauge whether they are okay with people who are into blue eyes. Meticulous planning. Preparing the right setting. Easing conversation in the right direction. Making sure they don’t feel uncomfortable or trapped. Some people put this kind of effort into first dates, or even marriage proposals. Me? I save all of this effort for when I tell people I’m gay.