All gay people have fears about coming out. It’s only natural. We’re told all these horror stories about people being disowned and beaten, told we’re a little bit dirty and wrong by some sections of society and taught self loathing by others. For some, coming out as gay/lesbian/bi or transgender does become a total nightmare. There are plenty of unfortunate stories. For the majority though, it’s more of a whimper than a bang.
Talking to friends about it, I quickly realised that for some it can be a humorous experience. Let’s face it: straight people can have some odd ideas. They’re a funny bunch.
I’ll start with me (of course). I told my mother when I was 17. I’d already come out to all my friends a few years before and was pretty open about it. I’d left home and was actually living with a male partner so thought it was maybe time to spill the (not very well tinned) beans. I caught her on an evening when she was alone at home and braced myself with a large vodka.
The response was: “I’m very relieved. I thought you might be bisexual and I don’t like that. It’s greedy.” I disagree with this but it did make me laugh.
Next: “I’m a little bit sad. Homosexuals lead very sad and lonely lives.” Oh Mother, how wrong you were. It’s not the 1950s anymore. We don’t all lurk in shadows and pine over unavailable straight men. I’ve never been especially lonely. In fact I’ve met quite a lot of very nice men, some not so nice men and some terrible monsters. Being gay has meant I’ve met a fair few men. Not to mention all those women who long for a gay best friend. It’s the latest accessory along with a pug and Radley handbag. I’ve also had a few long relationships which were fulfilling and fun, mostly.
Finally: “I won’t tell your dad. He won’t accept it. I won’t tell your brother either and your grandmothers are too old to understand.” Within a week she’d told them all and they all accepted and understood. It wasn’t spoken of much, which is our way of dealing with things. It’s a British thing I think.
Enough about me. Here’s what happened to some of my mates. The names have been changed to protect the less than innocent:
1) Patrick told his parents and they took him to the doctor who told them it was a terrible phase he was going through. That was nearly 40 years ago. He’s still waiting for the straight phase to start.
2) Dan told his mum and gran together (ten out of ten for bravery there). His gran chirped up “Ignore him Maureen. He’s making it up. He’s always been a little show off.”
3) Adam’s mum asked him if it was a side effect of drug taking. That’s a new one for the ‘Just Say No!’ Campaign.
4) Matt’s mum said “Gay? That meant happy when I was young. They can’t all be bloody happy can they” She’s not wrong.
5) Jack had been married and had a teenage son and a very angry ex-wife who outed him to his son. His son’s response: “If that’s a lie then you’re wrong for lying. If it’s not a lie then you’re wrong for not letting him tell me himself.” I think he was a wise young man. He also accepted that his dad was gay.
6) Seth’s gran blamed it on his sister. She believed that his sister had turned him gay by leaving her text books lying around the house whilst training to be a midwife. Mind you, those pictures can be grisly.
7) Ben’s dad seemed to think there was inevitability that he’d end up having sex in public in toilets and develop A.I.D.s. He’s done neither yet.
8) Mark woke his parent’s up and told them one night and his dad was jubilant. “See! I’ve been telling you for years he was gay.” He suspects they may have had a bet on.
9) Max came out to a friend at Uni who said “Great! I’ve always wanted a gay friend!” They didn’t become friends.
10) Rich was petrified that his teenage children would be teased at school. In reality, they had a lot of jealous friends who thought having a gay dad was pretty damn cool.
Joking apart, coming out can be scary and we don’t all get the supportive or warm reactions we deserve. If you’ve done it then congratulations; if you haven’t then good luck. I hope it goes well. If you don’t want to do it then it’s your prerogative. Who am I to judge?