Coming Out of the Closet

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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]

104 thoughts on “Coming Out of the Closet

  1. Eden

    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 be in question.

    In the early hours before work, I sit here with tears in my eyes for what you’ve endured, for what you continue to endure, but mostly, I am humbled by your courage, and ask myself, “Could I be so brave?” Each and every one of you it seems, didn’t become bitter, but emboldened by your experiences. To remain so upbeat when bigotry swirls around you takes a special person.

    Thanks again for sharing your stories, and Wave, thanks for this very poignant and thought provoking post.

  2. Wave Post author

    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.

  3. 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.

    1. Wave Post author

      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.

  4. 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. Hardly the same thing, but IMO it should’ve been enough for me to make the connection and realize what a difficult and neverending process coming out can be.

    Thank you all for taking the time to share something so personal with us. And thanks to Wave for asking, and for posting!

    OH, and Ethan, GO YOU for telling off the hate-preacher! You are awesome!!

    1. Wave Post author

      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 a lapsed Catholic and have no desire to enter the hallowed confines of a church again. I only go there for weddings and funerals because I think that organized religion is probably one of the reasons that the world is in such a bad state today – K.Z.’s post a couple of weeks ago is a case in point. Being spiritual has nothing to do with going to church.

      1. 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.

        1. Wave Post author

          Tam
          >>I think if lived in Alabama though it would be a whole nother story.< <
          We're lucky to live a country where, for the most part, people leave you alone. Others are not as lucky. I think being an athiest is so cool - I get to have my own religion. :)

          >>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 who married his former partner and no one thought it was strange (at least I haven’t seen anything adverse in the press about it) and now he’s running for Mayor of Toronto. Of course Western Canada is slightly more conservative *cough* *cough* but here in the East people just don’t seem to have strong opinions about gays, especially in multicultural Toronto which is the Canadian version of San Francisco, except for the weather. :)

        2. 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 anyone’s approval, and I figure it effectively weeds out people I don’t want to be around. And there are actual laws to protect my job, unlike the guys who have shared their stories here. Rick’s story proves THAT. Of course the hospital where I work has policies in place that state they cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, which helps, all employers should have those policies at a very minimum, but still. Actual LAWS would be good. ENDA, anyone?? Americans, call your congressional representatives! Call Obama’s office! Make it happen!
          **steps off soapbox**

          1. Wave Post author

            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. :)

    2. 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.

  5. 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 other happened Tuesday at lunch. I was out of town at a very big conference. At lunch I ended up sitting at a table of guys (80% of the conference were men so not hard to achieve), ranging in age from 30′s to mid-50′s. Also people ranging from peons like myself to a very high ranking guy from another department. We ended up talking about South America and mentioned Rio and he told us he was in Rio for Carnivale once. (Imagine me sitting there like a wide-eyed kid – tell me more). So he proceeds to tell us how he had just started dating his partner who used to live in Rio and had gone back for a month long vacation. The guy invited him to come visit for two weeks and when he arrived told him they were dancing in the samba parade the next day. So he was IN the carnvale parade. OMG! He’s my hero now. :-) But right there, he basically came out to 4 strangers. No one reacted at all except to suck in the information. Would anyone behave differently towards him now? I don’t know, I’d like to believe not, he’s obviously comfortable enough with his place in the world to tell virtual strangers. There are many gay people and gay couples working in my department and government-wide. But Sean’s perspective made me realize that yeah, he came out to us and probably has to do it all the time, something us straight people never think about because most people assume we are.

    So thanks for giving me something to think about next time someone casually (or not so casually) lets it drop that they have a “partner” rather than *insert opposite sex partner word here* that they are facing the same thing over and over (hopefully to a lesser degree) than they did the very first time they said it.

  6. 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 clue and try to replicate anyone’s life and experiences.

    It does make me laugh though because I used to refer to my significant other as my partner. He was more than a “boyfriend” but we weren’t married so I just said partner. Reading Tam’s story makes me wonder if the word partner now seems to solely designate same sex couples. Makes me wonder if I came out ..err..

    Oh and way to go Ethan for telling off that preacher. Pretty impressive!

  7. 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.

    1. Wave Post author

      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.

  8. Rick R. Reed

    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.

    1. Wave Post author

      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!

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Cary
      I know that the guys would want me to thank you for reading their stories which opened all our eyes.

  9. Wave Post author

    Kassa
    >>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.< <

    One of the reasons I stopped reading het romances is the example you gave. :) I love fantasy, but Gawd ...

    >>In some ways I think fiction has it right, better to go completely ridiculous then to have no clue and try to replicate anyone’s life and experiences. <<

    While M/M books are hatched in the fertile imagination of some author and the plot bunnies run around in fantasyland, sometimes it’s good to get a reality check. Rick’s and John’s stories are so poignant and heartfelt, as are all the others. As for Ethan, I sometimes tell him that he lives in his own fantasyland; but he showed more balls than many straight guys by taking on the preacher. I once asked him if he was black because his humour is so close to mine . Alas, he confessed that he wasn’t ‘lucky’ to have a double whammy – gay AND black. :)

    1. Wave Post author

      Kate

      >>(And it’s good to be reminded that everyone’s story is unique.)<<

      Isn’t it something that each experience was so different? I thought that their stories would be quite similar and boy was I WRONG!

  10. KathyK

    All I can say is Bravo! I’m in awe of anyone that stands up, even to themselves, to admit who they are and I’m not just talking about those of you who’ve had to ‘come out’… although Wow!

    And as Ally, and Tam mentioned, I noticed the recurring theme that coming out is an ongoing process; silly me, I just thought that once you took that step that was it. But nothing in life is ever that simple… hence the silly part.

    I guess what really gets to me is that so many people feel that they have to hide and that makes my heart hurt. No one should EVER have to hide who they are. And yes, living in Canada there are more laws to ‘give’ GLBT folk their rights… nice move *eyeroll*; but really why should anyone have to be given their rights.
    And being a lifelong Catholic, but definitely having a divergent point-of-view to the ‘teachings’ of the church, I agree with Wave when you said that organised religion is one of the reasons for so much hatred and unrest. I actually wrote the other day in a blog post that I feel that religion is a man-made construct and faith and religion are, most often, two separate entities. Okay, off my soapbox now!

    Anyway, I just wanted to say a big thank you to Wave for posting this and to all you men who opened yourself up. ‘Cause that’s a brave, brave thing to do… says the coward.

    And Ethan? You are soooo the man! You Rock… you all do!

    1. Wave Post author

      Kathy

      >>All I can say is Bravo! I’m in awe of anyone that stands up, even to themselves, to admit who they are and I’m not just talking about those of you who’ve had to ‘come out’… although Wow! < <

      What struck me was how brave and open the guys were and they all agreed right away to participate.

      >>I guess what really gets to me is that so many people feel that they have to hide and that makes my heart hurt. No one should EVER have to hide who they are. And yes, living in Canada there are more laws to ‘give’ GLBT folk their rights… nice move *eyeroll*; but really why should anyone have to be given their rights.<<

      For gay people of both sexes in many parts of the world if they didn’t hide they wouldn’t live to see another day.

  11. LadyM

    I’m really grateful to all the men who shared their stories. Regardless of the choices you made, it was humbling to read your experiences. They brought tears to my eyes. I wish you all the very best.

    And thank you, Wave, for this post.

    Oh, and I wish I could have been a fly on the wall of Ethan’s church. Unlikely (another atheist here ~_^), but it would be worth it.

    1. Wave Post author

      Lady M
      We all wished that we could have been a fly on the wall in Ethan’s Church but as you said, since so many of us are athiests, that’s one pleasure that was never going to happen. :)

  12. Valkovalin

    Very fascinating and thought-provoking post, Wave! Big thanks to the guys who shared their stories.

    I’m especially struck by something Sean got across about how every innocuous interaction between a gay person and mainstream society has potential to turn into a conflict: “Because the world’s default status is set to a heteronormative one – and most times you will be considered part of that until you say different, or someone asks you otherwise.”

    I started to get an idea of how wearing that would be, especially if you’re private person who doesn’t enjoy fighting all the time, and yet you don’t want to live a lie. I mean, I haven’t had to field that question of “What church do you go to?” in a long time, but I had to nod in recognition at Ally’s example (several generations of my family were atheists and they caught all kinds of hell, no pun intended :) , for that).

    I don’t even like it when I first meet people and they start probing around with questions to figure out my income bracket. It’s so obnoxious! I mean, it’s easy to tell when people are sincerely interested in what jobs I and my husband do for a living, and when they’re just fishing so they can categorize us into a comparison chart versus themselves. And income-level isn’t really that important.

    I can’t imagine what it would be like to be gay or a lesbian and have to make decisions twenty times a day on how much information to reveal under what circumstances and what response you’ll have ready for various situations for something as intrinsic to one’s identity as sexual orientation. Either that, or be extremely out all the time, but that carries its own weight in that you might feel that all GLBT people are being judged by whatever you say or do (since you might be the only visible gay person that all the het people know).

    Very thought-provoking post. I’m going to be thinking about this all day. :)

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Val
      >>I started to get an idea of how wearing that would be, especially if you’re private person who doesn’t enjoy fighting all the time, and yet you don’t want to live a lie< <

      In some ways I consider myself lucky because I don't have to "come out." When I meet someone new they know right away what my ethnicity is and I don't have to say "By the way, I'm
      black," because it's evident :) It's more difficult when, like Batboy says, someone like him can 'pass' because he doesn't have any of the characteristics that some people associate with gay men, and he has to make that decision every time someone asks the question "do you have a girlfriend or wife?"

      >>I can’t imagine what it would be like to be gay or a lesbian and have to make decisions twenty times a day on how much information to reveal under what circumstances and what response you’ll have ready for various situations for something as intrinsic to one’s identity as sexual orientation<<

      Think of the stress associated with making that decision to “out” yourself several times a week/month and not knowing beforehand whether it’s safe to do so.

      I really commend the guys for telling their stories and being so open. My regard for them went up a thousand times.

  13. Alexi Silversmith

    Thanks for this post, Wave! Although you’ve concentrated on gay guys coming out (for obvious reasons), I feel like the more awareness is raised about how tough this is, the better for all GLBT folks.

    1. Wave Post author

      Alexi
      Thanks for understanding why this post is only about gay men. I’m sure that there are other sites that talk about the other BTLQ folks and how difficult it is for them to live a so called ‘normal’ life under the glare of other people’ opinions.

      As I said in the post, some of my gay friends give me an ear full from time to time and I was so happy that everyone who contributed to this post actually wanted to do it.

  14. Arlene

    Thank you all for your story,and you have my utmost respect. I can’t imagine what it must be like for the GLBT people in our society.I have hope that the future will change and politicians and the religious right stop making “certain people” the scapegoat for societies ills. I especially feel sorry for young people who have a hard enough time as it is, and have to deal with their sexuality and being judged by stupid uninformed people. The only reference I have to discrimination is how I was treated as a child and young adult when people found out I was Jewish,without a “jewish sounding name”.I remember being asked how come I was a heathen?? The only way things will change is if straight people will stand up for everyone not just certain ones.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Arlene
      >> I especially feel sorry for young people who have a hard enough time as it is, and have to deal with their sexuality and being judged by stupid uninformed people. <<

      I’m very glad you brought that up Arlene. I think about the kids who have enough dealing with adolescence, school, and everything else that’s going on in their lives and then having to face slurs about sexual orientation which must seem like the final blow. I hope that some of them see this post and realize that there is hope.

  15. Sean Kennedy

    Thanks everybody, for the kind words!

    I found it interesting to read all the other responses, and although only guessing at the ages of the other guys it struck me how – even though time changes some things and makes it easier, and despite the fact that sometimes it still seems like we’re sliding back into darker attitudes – the actual coming out process itself doesn’t seem to change on a personal level. It’s still a ‘big’ thing to do, and those personal fears don’t change either and remain universal.

    1. Wave Post author

      Sean
      You certainly gave a different perspective to coming out. I think you and Batboy both said that this is not a one time thing and then it’s over – it’s continuous every time you meet someone new. I never really thought that every day you’d face a new challenge and another case of rolling the dice to decide whether to go back in the closet like you did for a short while. Kudos to you to make the leap once and for all that being “out” is where you wanted to stay.

      Thank you Sean for sharing your story and also for our other conversation. You’re a wonderful person.

  16. Cocoahomme

    Wave,

    This is one of your best posts (and there have been many ;-) ) It was my pleasure to tell my coming out story. It is amazing as I get older how far the GLBT community has gone, but how much more the community has to go. I think the interesting thing (in my opinion) about coming out is that in actuality, that is the easy part. It is the living day by day, challenging the status quo, deconstructing the many stereotypes about being GLBT that is the most challenging. I think the interesting thing about m/m fiction is that it has the power to change people’s perspectives about the GLBT community. Thank you again Wave and for all of the other contributors for telling their stories! You are all the best!

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Ozakie
      Thank you again for sharing your story with us. I thought it was so amazing how accepting your mother and sisters were because most folks in the black community refuse to even admit that being gay is for real. Those same preachers who talk about love to their congregations don’t have a lot of love for their gay brethren. You are one lucky man to have such a supportive family.

  17. Christian

    Great post, Wave. I also found it very interesting to read about the coming out experiences from the others, because they are all different to my own experience, some more some less. And great to see that this post gets such a great response. :)

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi C.
      I’m so glad that you were able to read the other stories and appreciate how different every one’s experience was. Thanks again for your contribution Christian.

      The response was much better than I anticipated and I’m happy that so many of the bloggers who frequent the site every day were so supportive to you, Rick, Batboy, Sean, John, Ethan and Ozakie. There’s lots of love to go around. :)

  18. Devon Rhodes

    Thanks Wave and most particularly to all your interview subjects, what an amazing post and compilation of stories!

    I particularly liked the observance by Sean and one or two others that coming out is NOT a one-time-and-done thing.

    I was fortunate at one point in my life to have a dear friend come out to me “first” (beyond his partners obviously). We were well into our twenties at that point, and he had known for a decade, but was from a very conservative Midwest upbringing…which he moved away from asap. It was wonderful to watch him bloom once the first bit was over with, although I believe it took many years after that point to come out to his family.

    Thanks again, guys, for sharing and Wave for putting this together for us.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Devon
      >>I particularly liked the observance by Sean and one or two others that coming out is NOT a one-time-and-done thing. <<

      That was the most surprising piece of infromation for me. Stupidly I thought that once you came out it would be like wearing a rainbow pin and everyone would know but I was so WRONG (as usual) .:)

      Thanks for supporting the guys.

  19. Chris

    Thank you to everyone who shared their coming out stories – definitely a lot to think about.

    Hmm. Lot of atheists here! Me, too – I was raised Catholic, but opted out of the whole mess before confirmation. Perhaps a tiny bit like coming out, but I didn’t have to worry that my family would kick me out of the house or that my life would be in danger or that I would lose friends…

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Chris
      I guess we have something in common in addition to liking M/M romances – we’re both lapsed Catholics. I can’t believe how the Pope and others of his ilk could be so unfeeling to gays and lesbians all over the world and they call themselves Christians. WOW.

      In any event this is largely a “good news” post and the guys were tremendous.

  20. Ingrid

    Thanks for sharing everyone from me as well :)
    After reading so many books it is good to see how things work in real life. It brings things in perspective.
    Also I had never thought about “coming out” being a lifetime progress.
    I read an article in a newspaper a while back about elderly people going back in the closet. It was heart breaking really. They went back in because they didn’t want to be pestered in nursing homes by staff or the other people living there.

    The partner thing brought a smile to my face. The word “partner” is commonly used here as so many couples are not married but are in committed relationships. And it applies to all couples. So partner can be everyone.
    I think I don’t exaggerate when people, when they don’t know for sure, will ask if you have a partner before asking if you are married.

    1. Wave Post author

      Ingrid
      >>Also I had never thought about “coming out” being a lifetime process.

      I read an article in a newspaper a while back about elderly people going back in the closet. It was heart breaking really. They went back in because they didn’t want to be pestered in nursing homes by staff or the other people living there. <<

      I, too, had never thought that coming out would be a lifetime process and the guys opened my eyes as to how difficult it is to live as a gay man.

      The article you mention is so sad. Imagine in the last stages of your life to have to go back into the closet and end your life that way

  21. ElaineG

    What a wonderful post Wave. Thanks to all of you that shared your stories of coming-out…or not. I hope that one day it will not matter to anyone anywhere who we choose to love…or who chooses to love us. I do not now, nor will I ever understand why some people hate others simply because of who they love. It literally boggles my mind, I can’t wrap my head around hate for hates sake.

    I have said this before and I will continue to say it, because it is what I truly believe: No one should be judged because of who they love, but be celebrated because they FOUND love.

    Thanks again to Rick, Christian, John, Batboy, Ozakie and of course Ethan and Wave. This was a very thought-provoking post.

    1. Wave Post author

      Elaine

      >>I have said this before and I will continue to say it, because it is what I truly believe: No one should be judged because of who they love, but be celebrated because they FOUND love.<<

      Truer words were never said. In a world that’s shockingly bereft of love where people are more focused on hate we should all be happy to have found love.

  22. Angelia Sparrow

    I’ll do the reading when I have a little more cope on hand. Thanks for telling the stories, guys.

    It can indeed be a lifelong process, made all the more difficult because of external pressures. One friend’s husband spent 19 years married to a woman because he could not, would not be gay and go to hell. (those two items are inextricably linked in middle America)

    Another friend’s ex-husband has gone back in the closet. His folks got him a nice sinecure, provided he gave up men and paganism.
    ~
    One of the things often faced is “how far out of the closet do I want to be?” Am I out to a few friends? Am I out to the whole darn internet? Does the whole world know I’m Johnny Dangerously, except my mother and my brother?
    ~
    I watched my daughter go through the coming out process at the age of 13. She had everything from friends abandoning her to actual murder attempts. She spent a year in mental hospitals because of the trauma her classmates inflicted and because of her own chemical imbalances.
    ~
    These days, after watching my oldest girl, I’ve decided to be as out as possible, closet and broom-closet, without harming people.

    1. Ally Blue

      Angelia, I’m so sorry your daughter had to suffer through all of that, and you along with her :( I don’t understand how people can BE this way, toward a child especially. What a horrible, horrible thing. At least she had — and HAS — her mother to support her, which is more than many GLBT youth have.

      See, this is the thing I don’t get, more than anything else. So many parents of gay and lesbian kids DON’T support them. Kick them out, even. It doesn’t make any sense to me. How can a parent turn their back on their child just for being gay? I don’t understand that. There is nothing — NOTHING — I would not do to protect my children. I would die for my children, happily. I would kill for my children, without blinking an eye. Finding out one of my kids was gay wouldn’t be any bigger deal to me than finding out they wanted to dye their hair or something (my 16-year-old son already does; pierced his ears too, LOL). IMO parents who turn their backs on their children just when they need them most aren’t fit to be called “parents”.

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

      1. Tam

        Ditto Ally. I don’t understand it. That is not parental love at all to me. Conditional love isn’t what parents give, somewhere they missed the boat. The “I’ll only love you if ….” is just wrong.

    2. Wave Post author

      Angel

      >>I watched my daughter go through the coming out process at the age of 13. She had everything from friends abandoning her to actual murder attempts. She spent a year in mental hospitals because of the trauma her classmates inflicted and because of her own chemical imbalances.<<

      That is so horrible that your daughter and your entire family had to suffer like that. I sometimes wonder if some kids are born with a cruel gene so that it’s their automatic setpoint for everything.

      As Sean and Batboy said, coming out is really a lifelong process and they go through some form of “coming out” every morning when they leave home to go to work. I wonder if the day will ever come when we will achieve equality – I can only hope so. Thanks for commenting Angel.

  23. Lilli

    Reading your stories my feelings ranged from sadness to anger to admiration for your strength and courage. Thank you all so much for sharing your personal experiences.

    And thank you Wave for setting up a great post.

    1. Wave Post author

      Lilli
      >>Reading your stories my feelings ranged from sadness to anger to admiration for your strength and courage<<

      I think the operative words here are “strength and courage.” They have these qualities in spades.

  24. TCBlue

    Thank you to all of you (Wave & the guys) for such a thought-provoking and interesting post.

    I honestly don’t know what to say, here (with me it’s either feast or famine and if I get started, I’ll end up writing pages, so best not to go there. :P). Just thanks, Wave, for the post and thanks, guys, for sharing your stories.

    ~Tis

    1. Wave Post author

      Tis
      I think that the guys were concerned about putting it all ‘out there’ and I know that they’re pleased with the response to their stories as you can tell from some of their comments. It could not have been easy to be so open and I salute all of them for sharing the intimate details of their lives.

      Thanks for stopping by and supporting them.

  25. Leslie

    Heartfelt stories and a great intro post. Thanks for pulling this together, Wave. I am sure I will revisit the stories many times.

    L

    1. Wave Post author

      Leslie

      >>Heartfelt stories and a great intro post.<<

      The stories are indeed heartfelt and putting the post together was a labour of love. I love the guys for doing this, and as I said earlier, no one refused when I asked – they were all happy to do it.

      Thanks for reading their stories Leslie.

  26. Ethan Day

    Thanks for asking me to be a part of this Wave, and to the other gentlemen who offered so many different perspectives. Coming Out is always one of those topics I find immensely interesting as they tend to be as varied as the people who experience them, yet at the same time, common threads or themes invariably link them together. It’s a little like the DNA of gay culture in a weird way.

    And as much as I’d like to take complete credit for telling that preacher he was full of it, the truth of the matter is, had he not called me out for getting up to leave, I would have just walked away, never to be seen or heard from again. And while it was partially his message of ‘some of us are better than others’ that pissed me off, I do believe it was his attempt to force me back into my seat…to shame me for having the audacity to think for myself that caused the snarky retort on my part. I’m not even sure how he knew I wasn’t just going to go pee or something? I assume I wore an expression he could read as disgust, but I guess I’ll never get an answer to that question.

    Thanks again for allowing me to take part, Wave! And thanks for all the kind comments from everyone. : )

    Ethan

    1. Wave Post author

      Ethan

      I have been telling you this for the longest time, you always make me laugh whenever I’m down and your post had me in tears and laughter with each paragraph.

      >>I’m not even sure how he knew I wasn’t just going to go pee or something?<<

      This is what I mean about making me laugh. :)

      I would mention how big your balls are for telling off that preacher but I’m sure if I did you would offer to play the ‘whose balls are bigger’ game with me. :)

      Ethan you’re a terrific human being and don’t let anyone tell you any different. I can’t reveal what Aunt Lynn said when she read your story but you know how fond she is of you. She’s still looking forward to feeding you when you visit Berkeley, California.

      Big Smooches to you Ethan and try to finish Sno Ho 2 before the snow comes back.

      1. Ethan Day

        I hope I make it to Aunt Lynn’s for dinner someday!! That’d be awesome. : ) And I’m working on Life in Fusion (the Sno Ho sequel) now!

        And I’m pretty sure my balls are just average, Wave. ; )

        Ethan

        1. Wave Post author

          Hi Ethan

          >>And I’m pretty sure my balls are just average, Wave. ; )<<

          If they are they would be the only thing about you that’s average. :)

  27. John

    I’ll add my thanks to Wave for asking me to share a bit of myself with all of you. I read the other guys’ experiences with interest, especially the coming out in stages and having to revisit it over again many times.

    One related topic that hasn’t been discussed is being ‘outed’. I have had two experiences of being outed, both fairly minor, neither got back to my family. My dad and sister both deserve to hear it from me, if and when I choose to tell them. Not from someone wishing me harm.

    Thanks again Wave. SMOOOCH!!!!!!!

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi John
      I’m the one who should thank YOU for telling your story. It was so moving that I cried a few tears.

      >>One related topic that hasn’t been discussed is being ‘outed’. I have had two experiences of being outed, both fairly minor, neither got back to my family.<<

      Why are people so cruel? What is it to them whether you’re gay or straight or bi or a purple people eater? Do some people just love to make others miserable? Stuff like this makes me see stars and not in a good way.

      John you’re a good man and someday soon I hope you’ll meet a man who deserves you. Big SMOOCHES to you too. :)

  28. Lynn Lorenz

    Great! Just great! Thanks to all the guys who put themselves out there to tell their story.

    Coming out can be a huge step, a jump off a cliff, or as simple as crossing a threshold, but like some of the guys said, it’s different for everyone.

    What’s important is for those of us who witness these moments to do it with gentle understanding, love and acceptance. It makes the journey easier, and I’m all for that.

    The key is acceptance, not tolerance. Tolerance implies (or does it infer?) that whatever you’re tolerating is wrong/bad/not good. This world is diverse and richer for it. Everyone deserves the right to love and be loved, openly.

    Thanks Wave! Always wonderful….

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Lynn

      >>The key is acceptance, not tolerance. Tolerance implies (or does it infer?) that whatever you’re tolerating is wrong/bad/not good. This world is diverse and richer for it. Everyone deserves the right to love and be loved, openly.<<

      You’re so right. The key IS acceptance and I think their individual stories prove that the guys have accepted themselves and it’s up to the rest of us to do so as well.

  29. Wave Post author

    Hi Val
    >>I started to get an idea of how wearing that would be, especially if you’re private person who doesn’t enjoy fighting all the time, and yet you don’t want to live a lie< <

    In some ways I consider myself lucky because I don't have to "come out." When I meet someone new they know right away what my ethnicity is and I don't have to say "By the way, I'm
    black, because it's evident" :) It's more difficult when, like Batboy says, someone like him can 'pass' because he doesn't have any of the characteristics that some people associate with gay men, hence the question "do you have a girlfriend or wife?"

    >>I can’t imagine what it would be like to be gay or a lesbian and have to make decisions twenty times a day on how much information to reveal under what circumstances and what response you’ll have ready for various situations for something as intrinsic to one’s identity as sexual orientation<<

    Think of the stress associated with making that decision to “out” yourself several times a week/month and not knowing beforehand whether it’s safe to do so.

    I really commend the guys for telling their stories and being so open. My regard for them went up a thousand times.

  30. Justacat

    I agree that this is a fantastic post, and I’m grateful to the guys who shared their experiences so openly with us.

    I do a significant amount of volunteer work for LGBT organizations and am involved in a number of other groups that are populated primarily or significantly by gay men (and to a lesser extent women), so I’ve had more than perhaps the usual (for a straight woman) exposure to, and chance to view first-hand, the variety of gay mens’ (and boys’) experiences of coming out, and finding ways to “live out” (for lack of a better term), and the obstacles they face in doing so – the way “coming out” is a never-ending process. I can never really know what it’s like, never do more than empathize to the best of my abilities, but the stories I’ve heard, and things I’ve observed, too often hurt to hear and make me fight tears; they quite frequently enrage me – which I suppose is a big part of the reason I continue to be so involved in what I do. (Occasionally there are heartwarming stories, too, of course.)

    It shouldn’t have to be this way. Maybe one day it won’t be.

    I absolutely love escaping to the fantasy of m/m romance-world – all romance is fantasy, and that’s okay. But I agree that this sort of reality check is so important. It’s easy for us – straight (or bi) women, I mean – to understand the extent to which m/f romance is fantasy; without personal experience, it can be more difficult to be able to make the same assessments of m/m romance. Hearing the stories of people who do have that experience of the reality helps make that possible.

    And beyond that, this is a way to make people aware of these very real issues, people who truly might not have realized or understood their full scope. That, especially, is (to me) what makes this post so valuable and the willingness of the guys to share their experiences so important.

    So – thank you, Wave and guys, so much for this.

    1. Wave Post author

      Justacat
      >>I can never really know what it’s like, never do more than empathize to the best of my abilities, but the stories I’ve heard, and things I’ve observed, too often hurt to hear and make me fight tears; they quite frequently enrage me – which I suppose is a big part of the reason I continue to be so involved in what I do. (Occasionally there are heartwarming stories, too, of course.)<<

      Thanks for sharing some of your experiences as a volunteer with GBLT men and women. For some of us this is a whole new world. Fortunately for me my gay friends helped me along this journey and made me appreciate how difficult life is for them because, although they are a ‘minority,’ most of them are not ‘obvious’ so their life consists of constant coming out every time they meet someone new.

  31. Kate McMurray

    What a wonderful post. Thank you everyone so much for sharing your stories!

    I was once at the other end of a conversation that started, “I’m gay. I’ve never told anyone that before.” I don’t think I appreciated how hard that must be until that moment.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Kate

      >>I don’t think I appreciated how hard that must be until that moment.<<

      I don’t think any straight person can truly appreciate what it takes for a gay man or woman to come out, because the process could be very painful.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  32. Aliens

    Like someone said before this is one of your best post Wave. Thanks to everyone for sharing their story.

    1. Wave Post author

      Aliens

      >>Like someone said before this is one of your best post Wave<<

      As I said in the post, there are times when I have to be serious and this is a huge topic which is very pivotal to how a gay man lives in the real world. I hope I have at least brought a little perspective to the issue, and by asking the guys to tell their stories that the veil has been lifted a little.

  33. wren

    I’ve been out all day and so just came across this post. Thank you, gentlemen, for sharing your experiences, and thanks, Wave, for being a guide on this journey.

  34. TJ

    Hi Wave – I’m a little late to the party, but I’ve been away. What a great post! There are things in each of these stories that hit home for me. I agree that it is a daily choice when you meet people to decide how you will respond to the typical questions. While I don’t announce that I’m gay to everyone, I would not lie about it unless I felt it would be unwise to be honest (i.e. unsafe).

    Of course I loved Ethan’s post, and John said many things that I have thought myself. John, I agree that a lot of our culture puts too much emphasis on looks, but I think that there are many gay men like us, just living quiet lives, who want a real relationship, not just a physical connection. I would rather be alone than be with just anyone. It may mean that I end up alone, but that is the price of being true to my feelings. Thank you all for sharing and being so honest.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi TJ
      Thanks for dropping by. I’m glad that you were able to read the guys’ individual accounts of coming out.

      >>There are things in each of these stories that hit home for me. <<

      This is what a few of the emails I received since posting this indicate. Many gay men are like John – they are not out for various very sound and practical reasons, but they wanted to acknowledge how much the individual stories moved them.

  35. Batboy126

    Wave, thanks for posting this. I enjoyed reading the other accounts. Thanks to John, especially, for sharing his story.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Batboy
      Thank you again for allowing us into your life for a short while. I know that you’re very private so I was very pleased that you agreed to participate without hesitation when I asked you.

      What struck me and the other people who read the stories was that every one was different; the only similarity I could find was that you and Sean stressed how coming out is a continuing process.

      John is a wonderful man and I hope that he finds a man to love who is worthy of him.

      Smooches! (I know you hate that I would be so forward with you) :)

  36. Aunt Lynn

    Sorry to be late, everyone. I’m at deadline at work, and unless it’s happening in my kitchen and associated with the redesign of my org’s website, it just ain’t on my radar right now.

    Anyway, I had the pleasure of reading the stories a wee bit early as I helped format the post some. As everyone else has said so far, I had a full range of emotions from laughter to tears, and I’m thankful that you all contributed as you did.

    I’m lucky and thankful that I live in an extremely tolerant area — just about anything and everything is accepted in Berkeley (well, maybe except for the far Religious Right!) — and that my own coming out was so painless that it feels as if it barely happened. And I wasn’t even living in CA then, just had a fabulous support system. I realize how unusual that may be and I’m so sorry and sad when it doesn’t go that way for others. So unnecessary…

    Anyway, amazing post gentlemen and Wave.

  37. Wave Post author

    Hi Lynn

    I’m surprised that you could drag yourself away to even post a comment because I know how busy you are for the next couple of weeks.

    Thank you for your help converting the stories to PDF. Someday maybe I’ll be able to do some of the stuff I’m always calling on you and Christian to do. :)

    I’m so happy that your own coming out was painless, which makes you very lucky, and you are so right – support is so important. Most folks (men and women) go through an entirely different process on a continuing basis.

    The guys were so open, something that struck me over and over, and I can’t thank them enough for sharing their stories.

  38. Vivia

    Thank you all who shared your stories and Wave for writing this important article. I just love this site!
    I’m grateful to my mother who was raised as a Catholic but didn’t raise her children into it. During my childhood she often talked about the author Federico García Lorca and that he was killed because he was homosexual, not that I understood back then but it always stuck with me.

    It’s easy sometimes to forget that we live in a very small island that is the Western world. The rest is much bigger and not as tolerant.

    According to the Swedish Wiki article the practice of outing someone has been known since the Roman Empire. Interestingly, lesbians were possibly considered to be potentially dangerous or “unknown”.

    Fortunately in Sweden we have this:
    http://www.rfsl.se/?p=3298

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Vivia
      Thank you so much for reading the guys’ stories. It really makes it worthwhile that so many people did. I’m sure the guys had reservations when I asked them to participate but no one turned me down and they were so open I was astonished.

      I learned a lot from the stories and I hope that everyone reading them will get a greater understanding of what being gay and coming out of the closet is like.

      Of course this is a small sampling of the experiences of gay men, and some of the stories are atypical, but I hope that they will help by lifting the veil momentarily.

      Thank you also for the link to RFSL. It’s great to know that organizations like that exist to help GBLTQ folks in Sweden. Similar organizations exist throughout the world but unfortunately they do not prevent discrimination and violence against gays, lesbians, bi, trans and queer people.

  39. Kendall

    I’m so late to the party (another week of falling behind reading this great blog), but thanks for posting this, Wave, and thanks so much to the guys who contributed, and to Aunt Lynn for transforming it into the PDF.

    Great stuff–something in each account reminded me of my coming outs (plural–as they said, a never-ending process) over the years.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Kendall

      We all have work and family pressures that come first. :)

      Thanks for stopping by and reading the guys’ stories. I think the important thing is that this post with the attached stories attempts to bring a different perspective, maybe a paradigm shift, to what happens when someone comes out. As indicated, and you confirm this yourself, coming out is not as simple as most straight people assume – it’s a never ending process which is quite stressful and sometimes the stress results in a few people going back in the closet.

      Yes, Lynn is one of my go-to technical experts. Technology and I are not friends :) and so when I have to do something that requires a bit of technical expertise I consult with Lynn and Christian Otto, our webmaster.

    1. Wave Post author

      Cait
      Thanks for checking out the guys’ stories. It was my pleasure to do this for them – they are all wonderful men.

  40. Team Roster

    You you could make changes to the page name title
    Coming Out of the Closet – Reviews by Jessewave to more specific for your subject you make. I loved the the writing even sononetheless.

  41. Carmel

    Wow, what an amazing group of brave people! This is the first time I’ve been on this web site (link was from m/m romance group on Goodreads). I feel priviledged to have had an opportunity to read these wonderful individual’s stories of coming out, some more difficult than other’s but nonetheless important.
    I’m a straight supporter and have a brother who is gay and very happily living with his partner of 10 yrs in Queensland, Australia now. His coming out took a long time and was actually accidental in the end, but long overdue, as he was living a lie and it must of been so excruciatingly difficult for him. But amazingly, coming from a fairly strict catholic family, my parents were the revelation being very accepting of him and his partner and continue to this day.
    For my own family, made up of myself and two daughters, I have made a point of teaching my girls the importance of accepting people’s differences (whether race, sexual orientation & the like)to be not only the right thing to do but the only thing to do. I’m fortunate to not have had a life of ridicule and have had freedom to be who I am & who I choose to love and understand that everyone deserves the right to that basic need in life. So although my comments are very much after the fact in regards to the original post I’m pleased I could make them, thanks:)

  42. Benjamin

    Hi, My name is Ben. Some people know I am gay. Many suspect. Most don’t. Why? Well I kind of got something stuck to my shoe in the closet. It just so happens to be christianity. I’m fairly certain that if I am gay and act on my wants that all I have to look forward to in the long run is hell. I’m deathly scared. I believe in the bible, I believe in God and I know I have seen miracles worked and heard of many. When I think about this, given the whole miracles thing, I think that that means all of the bible must be true and therefore it must be the Devil giving me these thoughts. I know I am gay (though my sister tells me its the Devil) but I many times believe it was myself who put this on me. Are there any devout christians out there who are gay as I am and found out an answer. Or is there anybody out there that knowns and REMEMBERS from the bottom of their heart that they were gay even when they were little? I need a lot of help… Someone? P.S. I am 18.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Ben

      Thank you for commenting on this post.

      I’m really sorry you feel that being gay is the work of the Devil. It’s been demonstrated scientifically for decades that people are born gay so you should not feel guilty about your sexual orientation and whether or not it conflicts with your religious beliefs. There are many studies about the number of gays worldwide and a Gallop study conducted in 2002 estimates that the number of gays in the US (which would probably be similar to Canada) is around 20%, but no one knows for sure. More people are coming out every day but it’s a difficult process and sometimes it’s a lifelong endeavour as you can guess from this post.

      If you would like to email me at jessewave@gmail.com I’ll ask a couple of gay men who are religious, to respond to you and perhaps offer some help. In the meantime I don’t know if you saw this post by Josh Lanyon a few weeks ago called What would Jesus Do? Here’s a link.

      http://www.reviewsbyjessewave.com/2011/06/21/what-would-jesus-do-spirituality-in-mm-fiction-by-josh-lanyon/

      You will notice that there were many religious gay men and women who commented and talked about their relationship with Jesus. Check out the responses from Stuart and Toby Johnson, among others.

      I’m also enclosing a link to a blog called born this way which contains accounts of gay men and lesbian women from childhood, with photographs of them as young as 4 years old. Here’s a link to that blog.

      http://borngaybornthisway.blogspot.com/

      I look forward to hearing from you.

      1. Benjamin

        I’m not going to lie, I want to be gay. My body says I am but in my head I guess I have conflicting thoughts. How do you know scientists know that you are born that way? I read the blog that talks about how people have always known and one girl talked about how she was in the same sleeping bag with her counselor. That would be a major turning point in ones life altering ones thoughts. No child would go in to a situation like that. One person talked about how homosexuality is a learned behavior and that kids aren’t born that way. It’s impossible for scientists, as far as I know, to be able to know it;s not a learned behavior. When I was little, I liked women. I also remember that I went through this phallic stage in my life when I was fascinated with the male body, my own and others’. I really don’t know where that came from but I remember also when I was little people would make fun of me and call me gay. It wasn’t until I asked myself if I was gay that I started thinking that I truly was. At first I didn’t really like the thought but then I figured there has to be something bothering me all the time (this is when I was little I thought I should always have an issue at hand) and then I guess I grew more accustomed to the idea. I need a lot of help. Lol.

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