I write a lot of fun posts on this site because I love to have fun, but there are times when I’m serious, because living is serious business and life is a crap shoot. I have a lot of gay friends and they talk at times about the challenges they face every day (over and above the usual everyday issues we all deal with), and this is one of the reasons why, in addition to reviewing M/M romances and gay fiction, I occasionally discuss on the site a few of the issues faced by gay men. I think it’s important for straight people to remember that behind the fictional, fantasy world of M/M romance, gay men live in the real world which is not a fairytale (no pun intended).
Deciding to come out is pivotal to how a gay man lives the rest of his life and this is usually the first step of a life lived out in the open, so I wanted to put a face to a few gay men in respect to the one important decision they made that affected their lives, either positively or negatively.
Gay men in our society have to decide at some point whether or not to come out of the closet. Some do it as teenagers and others much later in life. I wondered what circumstances would motivate that decision. Why did they choose to come out? How tough was it? Were their friends and families supportive? Have their employment opportunities diminished or disappeared since they came out? Now that they are out, do they sometimes wish they could go back into the closet and close the door, or put the genii back in the bottle, because the world is a cold, unfeeling place? Of course no two experiences are alike and it’s important to remember that, as they say in the ads, “individual results may vary.” For some it was an easy transition, but for others it was quite traumatic.
While some gay men have come out of the closet, many of them live their lives “on the down low” because they fear that the negative consequences could affect every aspect of their lives – their jobs, friends, family, community, social life, church etc. Activities that straight people take for granted, something as simple as walking down the street holding hands, are not available to many of them. Some gay men are unhappily married to women and their wives don’t know about their sexual orientation. It must be very difficult and emotionally devastating not to live your life with integrity in this situation. In some countries, even today, they could land in jail or worse if their sexual orientation were known, and in ethnic communities the majority of gay men never come out because those they value would reject them, so they live a lie all their lives. Many gay men live in fear for their lives all around the world, including North America where hate crimes are on the upswing. Gay celebrities have hidden their sexual orientation for decades – Rock Hudson is a prime example and he paid the ultimate price. More recently CNN’s Anderson Cooper was reported to be gay (this has not been substantiated), Ricky Martin and Clay Aiken only recently came out (guess we didn’t know they were gay) :), and rumours have swirled around Tom Cruise, Mr Rogers and Jake Gyllenhaal for years (again unsubstantiated). If it’s that difficult for celebrities with all their support systems to come out if they are indeed gay, how much tougher is it for the ordinary gay man who may end up living the rest of his life alone because family and friends have rejected him, and romance is not even on the horizon?
M/M romances are inundated with stories/fantasies about gay men coming out of the closet. Since readers and writers of the genre are mostly straight women we can only imagine what this is really like. For gay men, being gay is only a part of who they are and they sometimes feel that M/M romances emphasize one aspect of their lives almost to the exclusion of everything else – their sexuality. They are just as three dimensional as you and I, and while being sexually active may at times drive some of what they do, they are like everyone else in the way they live their lives on a daily basis, with one major difference - they are a ’minority’. They have children, parents, siblings and friends but they have to make a living while coping with the slings and arrows thrown at them by bigots. I’m sure that at times sex is the very last thing on their minds, yet that’s the first thing mentioned when books are written about them, and they are too often portrayed or perceived as one dimensional sex machines by the straight world.
To give you a glimpse of their lives and personal experiences I asked a few gay men to talk about “coming out” or choosing to remain in the closet. Those who have come out have varying experiences which you will read about. For those who are still in the closet, how has this affected them emotionally and how difficult is it to find someone to love? John talks about what that is like. Because of the length of this post (5000 words – yes that’s right, 5K) I am enclosing the individual histories as a PDF file. I hope that these stories will give you a greater understanding of what it really takes for a gay man to either “come out” or remain in the closet.
I would like to thank Rick R. Reed, John, Ethan Day (who had to give his piece his signature take), Christian Otto, Sean Kennedy, Batboy 126 and Ozakie Knotts for taking the time to tell their stories. Guys, this is my homage to you. You rock !! (and that includes you, too, Ethan) :)