Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Coming Out - Hallmark should make a card...
Today, on a very special episode of Villains Vanquished, we are tackling three very important issues. Okay, "tackling" may be pushing it a bit. Ranting, Raving, maybe even a bit of sincere questioning, but "tackling" - eh...

I am a heterosexual, married mother of one. No surprise to regular readers, but I didn't want the title of this post to confuse anybody. I also have no problem whatsoever with homosexuals. I don't want to sleep with any - or really anybody other than my husband - but I don't hate them or find them creepy or anything. To me, they are just another person.

But, it is this business of "coming out" that bothers me. Let me explain...

At the very end of my freshman year of college, right as I was studying for finals feverishly, a distant friend called me and "came out." I was more than a bit distracted, studying as I was for my very important finals at the moment the phone rang, and didn't quite get what he was saying at first. Mostly because he used the phrase "coming out", as in "I'm coming out...", which at first I took to mean he was going to be joining the weekend celebratory festivities.

But, after a few moments, I began to understand what he was talking about. But, the conversation made me uncomfortable. I didn't know how to reply. This, to my knowledge, is not a topic covered by Emily Post. Hallmark doesn't make a card. What do you say when someone "comes out."

Congratulations? This doesn't seem to fit and seems sort of...sarcastic. I mean, it isn't exactly an accomplishment, is it? You don't have to take some sort of written exam to be gay, or even go to school for it. Right? I'm told that it is something inherent in you - something you are born with - so congratulations seem not to be right. That would be like congratulating someone for being a blonde. Or able to roll their tongue. Doesn't work.

And, the information was delivered in a matter-of-fact way, not with a celebratory air. He might have said, "it is raining on Green St" instead of "I'm coming out." Same tone. So again, celebration and congratulations don't fit.

Maybe I should have said "I'm sorry." But this would seem to be just as offensive for a completely different reason. While you wouldn't congratulate someone for something they have no control over, apologizing for it implies that there is something wrong with it. Argue that point if you want, but if they were born that way, it doesn't work. You wouldn't apologize for someone being hampered with the ability to wiggle their nose, would you?

I am not being purposely obtuse, I swear. I'm just looking for some sincere direction in these situations. I realize that "coming out" can be traumatic (if you are telling close friends, your heterosexual fiancee, or your homophobic family), but what if you aren't close? I had to be pretty low on the list of people to inform. But then, I take issue with the need to inform me in the first place. (In particular, I was kind of offended at his timing, coming as it did when I was pretty damn busy proving to my parents that I was worth the investment, but that's another post entirely.)

I don't go around identifying my sexual preferences for my acquaintances, after all. And I'm not particularly interested in what flips their switch either. If my neighbors are into bondage, I don't care. If my parents or siblings are into key parties or toys, I don't want to know. And they are people that are very close to me. I just don't understand why people feel the need to be defined by their sexuality. Can't they just be Tom or Jerry or Susan? What's the deal? I am more than a heterosexual female. Aren't they more than gay?

I choose to assume so (because the other avenue is pretty bleak). And, if that is the case, why this pressing need to tell me? Do you think I will learn from it? Like somehow I will be instantaneously blessed with an admiration of abstract art or Streisand? Not likely. The only thing I'm going to learn from it is to stop particularly introducing you to my single female friends. It isn't like I keep a secret list for planning dinner parties that has a checkmark for gay, straight, bi-, or confused. I don't plan seating charts following a gay-straight-gay-straight format. And I don't think you should get special treatment for identifying yourself as homosexual either. I'm not going to treat you any differently than my other friends. I don't care about their sexual preferences either.

I sincerely wish you'd just keep it to yourself. Sure, if I keep telling you to ask out my single female manicurist, by all means - throw it in my face. Tell me she's not your type. That's fine. I mean, I would never take match-making any further than making introductions like a polite hostess should, but I'll take that hypothetical leap.

I'm not a prude, either, just so you know. I just don't feel like it is necessary. I don't talk about my bedroom activities, so I don't feel like I'm inviting conversation on the matter.

Seriously. What is the appropriate response when someone feels the need to tell you how they like it? Changing the topic seems rude. Congratulations seem bizarre. Apolgies are offensive. Should I say, "Okay. I'm making a note"? This too seems denigrating, but I'm at a complete loss as to what to say. Nothing seems to fit.

Maybe I'm just socially stunted.


posted by Phoenix | 10:09 AM


At 1:07 PM, Blogger Caltechgirl said...

My ever-so-wise answer in that situation was "I know. I've known for a while."

Which effectively changed the subject.

At 3:11 PM, Anonymous Regina said...

How about a simple "OK". All they want is to be excepted. You're right you were probably pretty low on the totum pole but "Coming out" to you was probably practice for the real deal. And maybe he had a hunch you wouldn't take it so bad so it would (maybe) make him more confident to tell others.

I agree that coming out is really none of my business or anyone elses for that matter. Who you sleep with is your business completely, but if no ones knows and you show up to the company christmas party with your significant other who happens to be of the same sex people tend to get a little.. well shall we say shocked!

That's just my 2 cents, I do agree with your bottom line of "why should I care they are still the same person" but sexualty is something that alot of people use to define others, not me and apparently not you either!

Great post!!!

At 3:40 PM, Blogger Phoenix said...

CTG - That is a great response! I'm going to use that! It is both accepting and shuts down a subject I don't want to discuss.


At 3:49 PM, Blogger Phoenix said...


Actually, I did say "Okay" at the time, but I felt that it didn't adequately answer the announcement. It felt stilted to me somehow, but perhaps I'm still feeling guilty over my preoccupation at the time with my studies. I don't know.

The argument you make about gatherings - I get it - but this seems odd to me too. When I go to parties, I don't introduce my husband as "the guy I have sex with" and when we were merely dating, I said he was my "friend" to people I wasn't supremely comfortable with and knew very well.

I would never take my boyfriend to a company gathering anyway, but that's another issue.

I still don't care one way or another what people choose to do in their own homes (so long as everybody is consenting adults), but I don't think it needs to be a matter of public fodder.

And I'm not sure people are actually shocked either. Most people, in my experience, are blissfully ignorant. They see two guys or two girls together and don't instantly leap to homosexuality unless there is some overt sexual signal, like tonsil hockey going on.

Gay people don't wear a scarlet letter and can't be instantly identified on sight as such, despite what television sitcoms would have us believe.

I really don't think that you and I are all that uncommon, being able to see past somebody's sexuality. Sure, there are homophobes out there, but I don't think it is a prevailing attitude.

Who knew I was an optimist?

Thanks for your thoughts, by the way.


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