Category: bisexual

Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are

On the road I meet loads of people who live partially out of the closet. They do have some queer friends, especially on-line. They may have someone in their lives “who knows” but they tell virtually no one on their job, in their family, or in their place of worship that they may be lesbian or gay or bisexual. (I don’t mention transgender people because I can understand many of the healthy reasons to be silent about the trans experience).

And I can see why many LGB folks silence themselves about their orientation. I get the e-mails and talk to folks who perceive that to come out would be mean loss–colossal loss of relationships, jobs, housing, financial support for college, and even expulsion from precious faith communities. In most states in the USA, one is not protected on the job in regards to sexual orientation (and it is worse for trans folks).

Then there is the physical danger. Even in parts of liberal NYC, to walk hand-in-hand with someone of the same sex provokes violence–verbal and physical.

So yes, we experience real impediments to coming out, some external, but for most of us the biggest obstacles remain internal. Through years of living under the weight of homophobia and in a society that insists that heterosexuality is the ideal norm, we build up storehouses of shame and fear and self-loathing. We may even express disgust at what we view as “the gay lifestyle” mirroring what our oppressors say about us.

The Coming Out process takes time. It takes courage. It takes building a network of safe people. It means that our lives may turn upside down, or even more surprising, that things won’t really change that much at all.

When we walk around with shame about who we are, we send out the message that it is okay to treat us shamefully. When we embrace the depth and beauty and uniqueness of who we are, even if people do not like us, they will treat us with respect.

People often remark to me that when I speak in public about my life, one of the things that sticks out for them is how comfortable I appear in my skin. They say it disarms people the way that I express my contentment with who I am as a gay man, as a Christian, as a Quaker, as a vegan, as ME. I don’t see it myself with all of the various insecurities I carry, but I do know that the coming out process for me has contained much more than simply announcing “I’m here, I’m queer, get over it!”

The process has become more than just coming out gay. Rather it has meant coming out as ME. In a world that claims to celebrate individuality and uniqueness, we experience tremendous pressures to conform, be it in the conservative church, the gay party boy culture, the Quaker meeting house, the lesbian drum circle or a thousand other groups that draw us.

The act of self-discovery, leading to a fearless willingness to truly be ourselves, creates conflicts and challenges for those around us. But with the potential difficulties, it also brings much needed wholeness and health.

I became a born-again Evangelical, fundamentalist, conservative, Republican Christian at the age of 17 (even though I presented as a flaming homosexual without even trying). That is when I went to war with parts of myself. At the same time I began to suffer lower back problems with my back going out almost every six months, sometimes for as long as a week at a time. The problem continued and grew worse. It happened the week before I got married. I ultimately developed a herniated disc that hurt so much, I could only lie down or sit for 20 minutes at time before having to stand or walk to relieve the pain. I never got surgery for it and just endured the pain for six months until it began to heal.

Once I came out and worked through years of gunk I piled on myself, my back stopped going out. My body sent me a message all those years. Something is out of whack. My body mirrored the imbalance inside me. Today even with all the plane travel and the many different hotel beds, my back stays solid and has not gone out in over seven years.

Today is National Coming Out Day. At his blog Journeyman notes how dark the closet can be. Even if you can’t imagine fully coming out and you feel you must keep a foot in the closet (or more) turn on some light and invite someone into your life. As the 1980’s AIDS activists taught us Silence=Death. And we experience death in the closet in thousands of ways. Similarly waiting for us outside we will discover thousands of ways to live.

Another Homeless Gay Teen

About once every six weeks I get an e-mail about a young person in Connecticut who needs a home because their parents no longer want them in the home because the teen is transgender or bisexual or lesbian or gay or even just questioning. Families are complicated, and no doubt other reasons come into play, but in almost every case the deciding factor to eject the child from the home is because they are too queer for mom or dad.

Robin McHaelen, the director of True Colors, sends out the requests via email. I just received one yesterday about a 16 year old lesbian who needed a home (and as a result of Robin’s efforts, the teen has found two homes to choose from!). I just received another request today.

This young man just turned 18. He is bright, responsible, caring and homeless. His mom listened in on the phone last week and heard him come out to someone. The mom’s response was to put him out. He has been staying with a friend since then, but can’t remain. We would love to find him a place in Windsor Locks or very close so he can finish school (He graduates later this month).

(If you live in Connecticut and are queer, you know how to contact Robin).

My mom spoke to me a few times about parents and how I need to be patient with them around LGBT issues. They grew up in different times when it was not imaginable to be a happy, healthy homosexual. And that most queers get the snot beat out of them every other day. This advice has helped me a great deal when speaking with worried parents who fear their children will end up lonely and unhappy and in trouble. These concerned parents often need to hear new stories to replace the assumptions they have.

But I cannot understand a parent who feels so strongly against same-sex attractions and gender differences that s/he would actually push their child onto the streets. Of course not all parents respond the same way. Some force their children onto the streets, others into ex-gay programs, and others keep their sons and daughters within reach.

A friend of mine in Boston has worked a lot with youth and is a licensed sex educator for the Boston Public School system. She said she noticed a pattern in responses by parents of LGBT children when the parent has a problem with having a queer child.

She said among parents who are white, the response has typically been something like, “You might be gay (or lesbian, etc), but not in MY house!” Then they kick their kids out. The young people stay with friends for awhile, going from house to house, but in many cases they end up on the streets. Among Black parents the response is different: “You are not lesbian (or gay, etc) and you are going NOWHERE.” The son or daughter stays in the home, watched carefully and perhaps silenced, but not destitute.

Last week I received an e-mail from a FTM transgender friend of mine. He is still college-age and is only just coming out to his parents. When he shared with them that he is trans and that he hopes to transition, their immediate response was to withdraw all financial support.

Again I understand how a parent may have concerns or be confused or need educating, but to react by impoverishing your offspring troubles me. Is this what we learn from living in a capitalist society that teaches people can and should be manipulated by money? How about talking? How about spending time together trying to understand each others’ needs and concerns? Rather some seek to silence, contain and disenfranchise their loved ones..

I wrote about parents and their fears in my post, Can My Gay Child Change? The short answer is YES. If you treat them like dirt, if you disrespect them and push your agenda on them without opening your heart about your real fears and concerns and listening to theirs, your child will grow distant from you and even hostile. Then when they need you the most, (and you need them) you will have positioned yourself far far away.

How Do I Know if my Spouse is Gay????

Over at my Spanish blog, Dos Equis, I have a post entitled ¿Como Identificar si mi pareja es homosexual? which is similar to the English post What About the Spouse? The Spanish site Adriana and I maintain got so many hits due to search results about gay and lesbian spouses that we decided to write about it in Spanish.

Today I received the following comment:

Sí encontré este blog por el título de este post. Tengo serias dudas
sobre mi esposo, y esperaba encontrar aquí alguna respuesta que me ayude a
identificar si su comportamiento tiene que ver con una orientación homosexual, pero de eso, nada. Ya que te encuentras en esa situación, quizá puedas darnos algunos tips para aquellas que somos lastimadas por el engaño de un hombre que no se resigna a reconocer su inclinación, lo cual es muy injusto para la mujer. Gracias.

I found this blog through the title of this post. I have serious doubts about my husband, and I hope to find some answer that can help me determine if the way he acts might reveal that he has a homosexual orientation, but so far, I have found nothing. Since you have been in this situation, would you please give me tips those of us that suffer because of the deceit of a man who refuses to recognize his inclination, which is very unjust for the women.

This woman deserves useful answers, but I feel hesitant to write about what signs there are to figure out if your husband is gay. For one there are cultural differences to consider. Also, one size does not fit all. Each man is wired differently, and he may display certain “signs” for a variety of reasons, not simply because he is homosexual or bisexual.

So I put it out there for readers. What would you say to this woman? Some of you were married to men or women who turned out to be gay or lesbian or bisexual. Some of you who are gay or lesbian or bisexual were married to a spouse for years before you came out to your spouse. What would you say to this woman?

I also received a comment on this blog at What About the Spouse? I think it deserves to be reprinted here:

The emotional earthquake caused when a person finds out his or her spouse is gay can be devastating. I was married to a gay man for 38 years before divorcing him. I did not know when we married that he was gay.I have learned through my experinece that there are few resources for the straight spouse.

In my work as a life coach, I encourage people to cast a grateful eye toward what was good in the relationship so that moving on can be a creative process rather than one fueled by resentment and anger. Those feelings are definitely there at first, but
the energy of them can be used to create a new life.

I have also found that many gay men have made the mistake of thinking that since the straight wife was friendly and understanding with other gay men, she would accept her husbands desire to live the life style. It came as a bit of a shock to mine that I divorced him.

It would be helpful for gays married to straights to have an understanding of what their spouse might experience beforer they come out to the spouse.

Good article! Melissa McCutcheon

Thank you Melissa! I appreciate the conversations I have had with spouses who have allowed me to see the pain and difficulties as well as their healing process after they discovered that thir marriages were not going to work. Thank you for stepping up and telling your stories.