Thursday, July 1, 2010

Musings on Coming Out

Coming out to my parents was something that I have long wanted to do.  For many years I had been wanting to take that final step but there was always some "reason" that would come up that would "convince me" that it wasn't the proper time.  I would find myself blaming concerns about their health, worries about whether or not I was ruining their day, etc.  For many years I would find myself getting depressed on my birthday with the thought that it was another year that my parents did not know their own son.   And while the thought of coming out was always there, the push I needed to make that final step was not to come until I met my partner.

My partner has been out of the closet for years before I met him.  In many ways, he helped me realize how much I had been keeping myself from truly making that final step forward.  I would like to share some quotes of his which really struck me:

"There will always be a reason not to come out."

For someone who isn't ready, there will always be a reason not to.  This was the very truth that I had been living the last few years.  It didn't matter if I was actively part of some event that called for Gender Equality.   It did not matter if I was working on a production that enlightened people on Gender sensitivity and the importance of being aware of the politics behind such things.   It did not matter if I was going to dress up in women's clothes for a play production.  My parents saw me as a young man who viewed the world much more openly than they did and was willing to do anything for his art.    They never assumed I was anything but straight.  They never questioned the fact I would have a "best friend" who stayed over so often, and eventually  replaced with a new "best friend" who would stay just as frequently over.

And while that made hiding in the closet easier, it never changed the fact that the choice to come out was a choice that I had to make for myself.  Others don't have it so lucky.  Others find themselves thrown into the spotlight of coming out by the actions of other people.

But unless the choice to do so is embraced, there will always seemingly be an endless number of reasonable excuses not to.

"Coming Out is a Personal Thing."

No one, ideally, should be the reason for your coming out save your want to be out.  Being outed is never a pleasant experience.   (While there have been instances where the reaction is favorable, the moment of being outed is always a stressful moment of helplessness which I have heard is best never experienced by choice.)   Coming out is a personal choice.  It is an act of self empowerment.  It is a moment of recognizing yourself and being able to say who you are.

When I met my partner, part of me desired to finally come out in order to be able to proudly say I am with him.  But on further reflection, I realize how that the idea of being able to proclaim we were together was only born from the desire to firstly be able to say I am who I am.  While his presence in my life has inspired me and  lent me the courage to come out, it was my need to be able to be recognized as me that demanded it be done.  All those years of introducing my parents to my "best friend" had to end.  All those years of playing the pronoun game of "with my partner" or "with my significant other" tired me.  I wanted to say, "with HIM".  I wanted to say his name and not just his role in my life.

Coming out also became a personal act of reintroduction to my parents.  I wanted them to no longer have doubts of who I was.  Rumors fly quite easily in a Filipino community, and I was certain there have been those who asked them if I was gay before.  I am sure that they said I wasn't.  And I am doubly certain that they had moments they did ponder if I indeed was.  Coming out was to put that wondering to rest.

Did it make things more difficult for me and my parents?

Admittedly, I have been having it much easier than most.  My parents have been very expressive of how much they love and support me, even if they are still shocked and disappointed by the fact their son isn't as they had hoped he would be.  Their upbringing and personal ideals see my being gay as something they are still in some ways denying to be real, and in other ways, hurting but struggling to accept.  I've had my share of painful comments from them, but ultimately, I understand it is their way of coping.  I feel more the love and support they share than the fear they have of their son having "lost his way."

And while yes, there are those awkward moments (like when I joined my dad for dinner with his friends.  They were grilling me on whether I was seeing someone, and my dad adamantly told them, "No he isn't." even if he was aware of me living with my partner for over a year now.) they aren't anything more than growing pains of a family that is learning to recognize each other as adults and see each other clearer without having to read between the lines.  I had planned to post an entry detailing how the night of me coming out transpired, but as I write this entry, I realize that night will for now be something that I will not have online for the time being.  It will have to be something for me and my parents for now.  Something I may share in discussion face to face, but not something left out on the web for public consumption.

Maybe later on, when the hurting is less there for them (and in some ways, for me), I can give a clearer account of how it transpired.  Who knows, that might even inspire others to go for it to.

They say once you come out of the closet, you can never come back in.

Frankly, I've finally come out and I can't help but think why I even tried to stay in for so long in the first place.

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