How Out is Out?

My best friend is Gay. If there was a three-dollar bill, he’d be on it, he’s that queer.
Okay, well, maybe he’s a little less queer than that. He can fix a bike, rewire a phone, install a sink, and other useful things like that. Then again, he’s on an eBay buying tear and recently nearly fainted with glee when he “won” a signed photo of Julie Andrews seated on a grassy meadow with the Von Trapp girls all gathered around her.
The man’s a proud gay man and has been politically active and really lives with his lifestyle on his sleeve, and that I greatly admire. He’s never come out to his parents, though, and this bothers me. His parents would have to be blind, dumb, and mute to not have ever clued in to the fact that he’s gay, but it’s never been discussed.
I just don’t understand. He knows I feel this way. I’m concerned, because I love my friend and I know how much his parents mean to him, but I also know what it’s like to lose a parent suddenly. Of all the things I’m saddened by regarding the death of my mother, the least of them are regrets. There’s nothing I never told her, there’s no thing I wish I’d been more honest about. When she died, she knew me for who I was, in every way, from my use of drugs to my lack of motivation. She loved me anyhow and told me she was greatly proud of me the day before she died. I hold onto that. I was loved, I was appreciated.
I realize a lot of parents freak out when their kid comes out. I know it’s a huge, huge ordeal and can be a very traumatic event in the life of any gay person, but I think that the disappointment and regret of never having come out is more of a burden to carry through life than the idea of living an honest and open life is.
Gay rights have always been something that has been a bit of a passion for me. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I have never gone down on a woman. I think it’s highly unlikely I ever will. Nothing about it titillates me. Seldom has a woman ever, ever aroused me. It’s just not my thing.
It doesn’t mean I can’t understand the hardships faced by a person who’s stuck being attracted to “the wrong sex.”
When I was in elementary school, there was a boy I’ll call Nicky. He was pretty flaming, from the get-go. He was the one that introduced us all to Dead or Alive’s “Spin Me Around.” He dressed up as Boy George for Halloween – in grade 7. In high school, he was obviously somewhat feminine, but he had an incredible personality and just radiated good times. The high school, though, was Catholic. And it was all about football. The jocks ran the school, and everyone was under their rein of tyranny. Gay wasn’t trendy then, and Nicky was obviously the only kid in school who fit that bill.
This was in about 1988.
Nicky was remarkably intelligent and great at expressing himself. He had this ever so light British twang, having been born in the UK but moved here when he was one. His voice was distinct. Out of everyone from high school, he’s the person I most wish I could get in touch with. He used to call me Ditch Girl after having thrown me in a ditch in Grade 3. We made up, but the nickname lasted for a decade.
He wore his politics on his sleeve, despite the mockery and humiliation he faced daily through the school kids. He got more political with age, and ultimately was selected as a guest on a popular sex/romance-related radio show that soon went national. He was 16, and was speaking on behalf of gay teens in British Columbia.
The appearance didn’t stay secret, despite his last name not being used. Monday morning, the news made its way around school. The football jocks took issue with having a Famous Faggot in their midst. Nicky was pinned against lockers and a beating was about to ensue.
“Go ahead. Beat the shit out of me. Want AIDS? I’m a fag, right? You’ve come to the right place, you fucking bigot! You can punch me and hurt me, but I’ll kill you with AIDS,” he exclaimed.
Nothing like using someone’s ignorance as a weapon, I thought then and still think now. Nicky was left alone. The less-ignorant kids in school admired the shit out of him, and though his remaining school days weren’t all sunshine and roses, they were made more tolerable by the considerable balls he exhibited that day in the hall.
His family knew, his friends knew, and those of us who understood the struggles he endured to become that person – that out and honest individual that filled us with admiration – probably became better people as a result of just having him in our lives.
A couple years back, a gay man was beaten to death here in Vancouver. It shook my friend to his core. I know he’s experienced times when he’d be taking out the trash to the back alley behind the gay bar he once worked in, when fuckheads would wheel up in their redneck cars and hurl pennies at him and call him a fucking faggot. He hasn’t let it silence him; he still lives as a proud gay man – he just hasn’t discussed it with his folks.
We’re kidding ourselves if we think everything’s fine and good just ‘cos some notable queers have made it onto the television in recent years. It’s a laugh if you think it’s all well and good for a gay person to be obviously gay in the workplace. Not too long ago, one of my original readers had a posting on his blog in which he started a controversy because he was all proud his coworkers and employer said he was a nice quiet fag who wasn’t too obviously gay. He thought this meant he was professional. I thought it meant he was conforming to fit into the nice little hetero peg that most of society still thinks we all need to fit into.
The Guy tells me occasionally about this coworker he really likes, this flamboyant and fun gay guy at his office. It doesn’t bother the Guy at all that he’s gay. Why should it? Being gay isn’t something anyone anywhere should have to hide – in work, in families – ever.
Until people begin telling their parents, telling their coworkers, and really start having the courage to live out loud, homophobia’s going to persist in our society. And that’s wrong.
Until we finally start seeing evidence that, yes, it truly is one in 10 that is gay in this society of ours, we will continue seeing senseless deaths like this young British man who was murdered by a couple fucking bigoted bastards who deserve the life sentences they’ve just received.
When friends and family members come out, you owe it to them to get over yourself and understand the struggle they’re facing, and provide them the support they damned well deserve. More than a third of teenage suicide attempts come as a result of them feeling so alone because of their sexual identity crises. Isn’t it time we change the statistics?

4 thoughts on “How Out is Out?

  1. Anonymous

    I am all for gay rights and all, but I don’t really think it’s bad for someone to say that a person is a “nice quiet fag who isn’t too obviously gay.” I don’t think it has to do with “conforming” or anything. It’s sort of like saying that two people who are going out are nice for not obnoxiously making out in public and at work. It is about being polite and professional, regardless of sexual orientation, it is generally annoying for someone to be constantly flaunting their sexuality. I find it a little bizarre that someone who is such a fan of manners and etiquette has trouble understanding the professionalism of separating sexuality and the workplace.

    PS: I’m sorry I’m always disagreeing with you on stuff. I really do like most of the things you say, it’s just a few little ones that sort of nag me sometimes, and for some reason those are the ones I always feel like writing on. Sorry.

  2. Haaaaaaa

    I have said here before that I live in a gay neighborhood with my family. I just have to say that I hate the stereotype that gays are perverts or pedophiles. They are no more a risk to my son than I am to the little girls on the neighborhood.

    I have some gay friends in my building. I think I don’t have any problem with them because I think of them as I do straight friends – they’re just friends. I like them because of their individual personalities. Some people I like, some I don’t – gay or straight. As with my straight friends, I don’t spend a lot of time with my gay friends talking about our sex lives. That is really only one thing about a person anyway. I think that mindset puts my gay friends at ease, because they know I am not thinking about them as only gay – that doesn’t define them for me. I hold people, gay or straight, to the same standard where my friendship is concerned.

    I am a low key kind of guy. I’ll admit that I don’t like flamboyant or overly demonstrative people of any sex, race, or sexual orientation. That’s a personality thing, though, not a sexual orientation thing. I think typecasting that type of personality as only a gay thing is a problem. It’s just of one many types of personalities. All sorts of people are like that. I know gay guys that don’t like that type of personality either.

    I think what gets all of usin trouble is that we, as a society focus too much on gays’ sex lives when that shouldn’t come into play in most situations. There are mnany more things that define the whole person.

  3. broad abroad

    This piece hit home! I have had relationships with men and women. Still, I weigh my decision well to whom I come out. It took me 10 years to tell my mother of my secret. She smiled and said she knew – what a relief.

    My brother questioned his abilities as a lover since the woman he was involved with “didn’t feel anything” during sex… that was the right time to tell him that I had been involved with her, too. His reaction? Oh, ok, great -that explains everything.

    On the down side. At university I was open and women avoided taking a sauna/shower with me or hardly spent time with me alone.
    My father disowned me and says that he does not have a daughter anymore. My extended family of 50 relatives does not want to have any contact with me.

    I have had my share of ignorant name-calling, been assaulted twice for hanging with the girls minding our own business, lost 2 jobs… co-workers I came out to used my sexual orientation against me. I was forced to leave a coaching position because being in company of women and young girls would be a threat to them.

    I pressed charges against THOSE people but in the end couldn’t prove anything. Those people mean nothing to me but I can understand not wanting to come out especially not to your parents when you fear losing their love and support.

    Yes, I am a nice quiet bi-sexual who isn’t too obviously gay and I still lead a fulfilling life. In an ideal world, I would put up a better fight for myself and others.
    But in that sense I am weak and tired and have chosen a more comfortable solution – one that fits for me. Maybe GayBoy has done that, too by not telling his folks.

  4. Qedeshet

    I think it is very easy for an “outsider” to sit and tell gay people that they should be out and proud, telling their friends and family. As a lesbian, however, I must respectfully disagree.

    You speak of the pain of sudden loss of family, your mother who passed away. You are glad that she knew everything about you, that she loved and cherished you, and that she was proud of you, so that when she died, you knew that your relationship was peaceful.

    But what if that never happened? What if you told your mother about your use of drugs, and she responded with “you are not my child anymore.” Would you be so glad that you told her then? What if she suddenly died without telling you she was proud of you, and she loved you, all because she had decided you didn’t exist as a result of something you did or who you are? And how would you feel if you knew that the only thing you had to do to maintain your mother’s love was to remain silent about one small part of yourself? Would you do it, or would you sacrifice your relationship for your versoin of “true” honesty?

    In my community, this is a struggle that every person deals with on a daily basis. It really does become a question of what is more important- insisting that I talk to my family about something they (most likely) already know, or maintaining the status quo and enjoying the relationship with my parents. For me, I would rather enjoy the time I have with my parents while they are still around than risk losing my relationship and having them die after five or ten years of silence.

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