Coming Out of the Closet

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) 🙂

ComingOutOfTheCloset [PDF]

rickrreed

Thanks for tackling a topic that’s a little out of the norm for your site. I like that you recognize the importance of true stories of gay men as well as the fictional ones. It was interesting to see that for every gay man, there is a different perspective on coming out.

Wave

Rick
I have to thank you again for being so open about your life and what coming out cost you, both from a career perspective as well as a temporary estrangement from your other family.

>>I like that you recognize the importance of true stories of gay men as well as the fictional ones. <<

I thought that while we love the fictional gay heroes sometimes it's a good thing to have a gut check. What struck me was how each man's story was completely different to the other. WOW. You go Rick!

Kris

As always, I am full of admiration for those who accept themselves for who they are – no matter what the circumstances.

Thank you all so much for sharing your stories.

Wave

Kris
Like you, I always admire people who can rise above their personal circumstances, and these guys have shown us that despite a world that sometimes does not accept who they are, they’re standing tall.

Kassa
Great post! Thank you to all the contributors who offer their stories and insight into a complicated, difficult and intensely private process. I don’t think m/m romance is anything but fiction, just the same as I really don’t think a Sheikh is going to come down and make a librarian his head mistress or baby momma. So it’s always nice to have a reality check every once in a while and get a glimpse into the reality of where fiction comes from. In some ways I think fiction has it right, better to go completely ridiculous then to have no… Read more »
Tam
Wow, thanks to everyone who shared their very personal stories. Something Sean said really struck a chord with me. Everytime you meet someone you come out all over again and I thought of two examples. One: just after I started in my current position we were in a staff meeting and talking about Glee (yeah, important stuff there) and as we were leaving one of my new colleagues was asking me about it. He had never seen it but said “My partner and I watch Voyageur every night”. Bing. Just came out to the new kid on the block. The… Read more »
Ally Blue
Wow. Guys, thank you, all of you, for sharing your stories with us. You’re all amazing. I’m with Eden, I’m sitting here all swimmy-eyed 🙂 One thing that really struck me in particular is what several of you said about coming out being an ongoing process. I think that’s something I knew in my mind, but never really considered as a real and visceral thing, if that makes any sense. And I’m ashamed of that, because as an atheist I actually go through an anemic little sister of that experience every time someone asks me what church I go to.… Read more »
Randy Cragin

Wow, I don’t have a problem telling people I’m an atheist. But I don’t automatically share anything. Whether it’s religion (Or lake of) or sexuality. But I refuse to deny either.

Wave
Ally Thank you for stopping by and reading the “coming out” experiences of some of your colleagues and other gay men. Isn’t Ethan a gas? He warned me that if I didn’t like his post he was prepared to write another one but it would probably be even longer. 🙂 I take my hat off to these guys who opened a private door and let us into a very important part of their lives. This sure gave me a better understanding of how tough life is for them. Re the atheist thing, probably that’s what I am too since I’m… Read more »
Tam

Another atheist raising her hand. 🙂 But I find it very easy in Canada to be atheist. No one would EVER ask me what church I attend. I have no clue what the religion of my work colleagues or neighbors are (except those with obvious outward signs like Muslim or some Jews). It’s just not discussed. My on-line friends mostly know but it’s an agreement to respect each other’s beliefs and it’s never come up. I think if lived in Alabama though it would be a whole nother story.

Ally Blue
I actually moved from Alabama when I got married 24 years ago, but it’s the same deal in the small North Carolina town where I live now, outside Asheville. “Where do you go to church?” is one of the first questions you get when you meet new people. If they ask what religion you are, they mean “are you Baptist or Methodist” LOL. I used to hedge, but these days my answers are “I don’t go to church” and “I’m atheist”. You can imagine the deer-in-the-headlights looks I get *g* At my age I no longer give a shit about… Read more »
Wave

Ally
What never ceases to amaze me is how important organized religion is in the world and how many awful things are done in the name of the “Church” and christianity. I know that being a part of the social fabric of the church is very important to a lot of people but I wish the members of these churches would be more tolerant and practice brotherly love.
*That’s my soapbox* 🙂

Being an athiest is so freeing.

>>Wow, that turned into a lovely stream-of-consciousness rant. Must be the Box O’ Wine O_O<<

I think I had some of that same wine. 🙂

Wave
Tam >>I think if lived in Alabama though it would be a whole nother story.<>Something Sean said really struck a chord with me. Everytime you meet someone you come out all over again << As Batboy said, if it's not obvious at first blush who you are, you have to explain yourself to everyone you meet in response to simple everyday hetero questions. I hope that the yardstick is moving in a positive direction and the two examples you gave showed clearly that it is. As you know, in this Province until recently the Deputy Premier was a gay man… Read more »
Cynthia Osborne

Well I am one of those straight women who read M/M…and I love it but I don’t think of it as real anymore than I think regular romance novels are real. But gay men and women have a battle everyday of their lives just to be who they are. Thanks to all of the men who helped this ignorant person to understand a little more. Maybe I will understand one of my sons just a little bit better now.

Wave

Hi Cynthia

>>Thanks to all of the men who helped this ignorant person to understand a little more. Maybe I will understand one of my sons just a little bit better now.<<

Thanks for reading the guys' stories. If the post helped you to see these men just the tiniest bit differently, I think that's all they hoped for.

Wave

Eden
Thank you for reading this because I know it’s quite long for a blog post.

The guys all said ‘yes’ immediately when I approached them and I’m sure that if I had asked others they would have been just as willing to participate. I asked a cross section of gay men to tell their stories so that readers would get a number of perspectives. The guys’ honesty and openness really got to me because this was probably one of the hardest things they had to do, next to deciding whether or not to come out.

edenwinters
To all who contributed to this post: thank you for allowing us this glimpse into your lives, for even though we’re not standing face to face, and you may never pass me on the street of your home town, sharing something so personal still has to be difficult. It’s a shame it has to be this way, that you have to “come out” at all. Color, race, orientation, gender, sexuality; we’re all just people and it’s hard to believe that in this day and time persecution for being who you were born to be still exists. Your acceptance should never… Read more »
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