Not as hard as coming out, but still not easy
January 27, 2011 7:19 PM   Subscribe

[Queer-filter] How do you cope with the ambient heterosexism of everyday life?

I've been out for years and am lucky to have progressive friends and family and live in a progressive city. I don't have to deal with much overt homophobia. still seems like there's an occasion every couple of days when I'm reminded that I don't actually have the rights that straight people have and that some people think that my intimate relationships are wrong or offensive. I feel like it puts me at a distance from other people sometimes, because I start to retreat to protect myself, and I don't like that.

In case some recent examples would help:
- an older friend of my family implied that I shouldn't have kids because it wouldn't be fair to them to be raised by a gay parent
- a dear friend, who's totally pro-gay, posted on facebook about how happy she is to be "married filing jointly" this year. I know that wasn't remotely intended to hurt anyone, but it reminds me that as long as DOMA stands, that's something I wouldn't be allowed to do
- I was getting to know new work contacts the other day and a moment came up when I would normally have mentioned my ex-girlfriend (explaining why I was familiar with a topic of conversation that she had worked on), but I chose not to in case it would make the other people uncomfortable, esp. since I knew one was an ex-Marine
- when I'm in a relationship, it seems like we always get lots of stares for holding hands and mild PDA. (I don't think I read as especially gay unless I'm obviously part of a couple, so being with a girlfriend always makes me feel a little bit like I was passing the rest of the time, and not realizing how others really felt about gay people because they didn't know I was gay.)

I know these examples are all at different levels of seriousness. But they kind of all accumulate. To the point where I hold myself at a little bit of a distance a lot of the time out of worry that straight people will subtly reject me or just not understand me. I know most people don't mean to. And it gets exhausting to constantly be on alert to how people are reading me and reacting to me. Should I just stop worrying about it? (Assuming I'm not in any physical danger.) How do you deal with this kind of stress? How do you deal with the constant question of whether to come out, and even when you're out, whether to downplay your sexual orientation or be more open and vocal about it?

I'm not so much looking for advice on how to handle the particular examples I described as thoughts on how to generally approach being queer in a society with a lot of heterosexism. I've read a little bit about covering and a little bit about minority stress. I think those ideas are both on point and I'd love any reading suggestions you have in those areas, or any other reading suggestions or personal experiences you could share. I have lots of queer friends, but we don't talk about this much. It seems like we often all try to pretend that we're just fine.
posted by zahava to Human Relations (33 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Things can only bother if you let them. Just be who you are, speak up when you feel wronged and have some understanding for people who don't deal with unusual (not usual to them) experiences perfectly.
posted by gjc at 7:27 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I found that a lot of my fatigue over the whole thing dissipated when I made the decision not just to come out, but to be out, all the time, 100%. That doesn't mean I make a point of telling people my orientation, but rather, I make the assumption that everyone already knows, is cool with it, and isn't going to freak out.

The world is built the way the world is built, and I'm built the way I'm built, and I am privileged enough to live in a place where I won't get killed for being who I am (mostly), so I finally dropped the whole worrying about making everyone else comfortable by hiding parts of my life thing, and that's helped me immensely in being much more relaxed about it all.
posted by xingcat at 7:28 PM on January 27, 2011 [33 favorites]

Well the first thing I would say is to stop living your life as though you have to accommodate someone else comfort with your queerness. The notion that you didn't mention something because it might upset their delicate ex-Marine feelings is insanity.

I travel A LOT for my work and in all circumstances I speak to people about life in the same way they do. If they talk to me about their spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend/SO I do the same and I use gender appropriate pronouns. If they clam up after that, well that's on them, not me and they can take a flying leap.

On the upside, I often get to change perceptions other people have. I'm pretty masculine appearing, so I'm not shattering that perception, but I'm friendly and articulate and successful and I think that a lot of people tend to marginalize butch appearing women in other ways.

Be you. 100%. Don't apologize about that.
posted by FlamingBore at 7:30 PM on January 27, 2011 [14 favorites]

a dear friend, who's totally pro-gay, posted on facebook about how happy she is to be "married filing jointly" this year. I know that wasn't remotely intended to hurt anyone, but it reminds me that as long as DOMA stands, that's something I wouldn't be allowed to do

This sort of thing is always going to exist. (I mean the people sharing the things they're happy about, even if those things aren't always 100% inclusive of everyone, not DOMA. Of course.) There's really nothing you can do but not take everything as a personal jibe against your choices.

It reminds me a little of the time I was temping in a predominantly Orthodox Jewish office, and someone made a snide remark after I said something about leaving town for Christmas. Acknowledging that Christmas exists and my family celebrates it is not anti-semitism. Jeez...
posted by Sara C. at 7:31 PM on January 27, 2011 [7 favorites]

Remember, you're as free to express yourself on Facebook as anyone else is. You could leave a comment on their status — something simple like, "I'm happy for you; I wish I could do the same." Or you could post your own status making this point without mentioning them by name.

This also makes it sound like you're not sure you're allowed to express yourself:

I have lots of queer friends, but we don't talk about this much. It seems like we often all try to pretend that we're just fine.

Wouldn't one solution be to, you know, start talking about it?

All your examples involve you passively looking on at what other people are (or aren't) doing or saying, as if you don't have a voice. You're living in Washington, DC in the year 2011; you aren't going to be burned at the stake for talking about these issues.

I'm straight, and even I'm annoyed by the heterosexual supremacy of our culture. I'm offended by the pervasive implication that people like me are the most special people. Of course, I can't even know what it feels like for you. But I do bring it up in conversation. My friends and I talk about how it's a problem that two men can't comfortably walk down the street holding hands in most US cities, and about how our professor who's gay doesn't have any photos of her long-term partner on her office desk or mention her to members of the gay student organization.

Change can only happen if people are willing to express their opinions. "Be the change you want to see in the world."
posted by John Cohen at 7:59 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For me, the best ways to deal with any situation like this is to remind myself of the other ways in which I was dealt a good hand. I also give thanks to how far the gay rights movement has come in the past decade. Being any kind of minority will always entail an uneven playing ground, but at least it's getting better for the LGBT community.
posted by msk1985 at 7:59 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am not gay but I am in a stable long term relationship with a woman 25 years my senior. She's awesome, my best friend, the one who makes me happy. More than that anything anyone else thinks is immaterial. What xingcat said totally applies. I'll be damned if I'll the her son ever again simply because correcting someone is awkward and confrontational. Life got a lot less annoying and social situations a lot less stressful when I owned that decision.
posted by mce at 8:03 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think it is important that you don't meet trouble half-way. Try to live your life so that you deal with existing problems, which are finite, and not your anticipation of problems, which can be infinite. I live in Boston and am not ignorant of the fact that my life here is easier than in most other parts of the country but I start off with the assumption that people are going to be fine with who I am. I like the quote 'You cannot simultaneously prepare for war and plan for peace'. Also, maybe look at your own ways of prejudging (assuming a Marine will not be tolerant), we often think the world is as judgmental or non judgmental as we are.
posted by InkaLomax at 8:11 PM on January 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I allow myself to be grateful even for these experiences. Feeling the pain of these situations has made me more compassionate and connected with others who are disenfranchised or misunderstood.
posted by Wordwoman at 8:14 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Don't look at the differences, look at what you have in common. I never met another who didn't want to be loved, be happy, feel safe. Don't believe me? Next time some one gets on your nuts just say "I love you" and walk away.
posted by I love you more when I eat paint chips at 8:26 PM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Have you considered becoming politically active to fight these subtle and non-so-subtle forms of discrimination? The gay rights movement has come a long way, but it's not over yet. Kids are still killing themselves because of homophobia. Gays still can't marry. And you and many others are experiencing the "death of a thousand cuts."

Be out and proud and remind yourself that it's not you, it's them. Approach our fucked-up culture with the attitude that it's fucked-up. How do you deal with subtle slurs against other non-majority groups? You shouldn't have to take that stuff; no one should! Use these as teachable moments. People are staring? Smile at them and keep holding her hand. Facebook comments? Comment back. Ex-Marines around? Don't assume they're all macho homophobes. There are plenty of gays in the service. Even if he was homophobic, you had every right to mention your ex-gf and if he reacted weirdly to call him on it.

You have every right to live your life your way and not to hide who you are, every right to take up space in this world. Remind yourself of that all the time and call people on their shit. I bet a lot of them don't even know they're doing it and will be chagrined. The others are just bullies who deserve to be smacked down verbally. The more people who stop putting up with homophobia, the more socially inappropriate homophobia will become.
posted by xenophile at 8:31 PM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Mod note: folks, I know it's a touchy topic and people have strong feelings but we need to be able to discuss it without firebranding the people who are also trying to figure it out. You can MeMail people you want to have a sidebar discussion with, thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:35 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think that the heteronormative dealer is dealing crappy hands. But this dealer is not just heteronormative, but racist, sexist and classist too. One way of dealing with injustice in one arena is to acknowledge privilege in another, and to remember that although the pain of these is experienced personally, it isn't always intended personally. Acknowledge that we are all bound up in the pain and suffering of unjust systems and that the onus is on each of us to nevertheless create and experience peace, joy and love.
posted by sockraticpielogue at 8:42 PM on January 27, 2011 [42 favorites]

Best answer: How do you cope with the ambient heterosexism of everyday life?

I confront it. Or I make sure to point it out to others (especially sympathetic straight people) so that they can notice it too. It helps to have a sense of humor while you do it, but sometimes you just have to speak your mind and not worry excessively about making your point "likably."

Also one thing I do is retreat into mostly gay company. For all the complaints that "gay culture" has been made obsolete by the more or less mainstream acceptance of gays (ha!), it is nice to spend time among people who more or less understand where you're coming with and share the same concerns. In our rush to assimilate and be accepted, let's not forget the unique ways we can help and relate to each other.
posted by hermitosis at 8:47 PM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Taking queer studies classes and reading stuff like Garland's Tiger Beatdown posts help me feel less alone about it. You'll get the same from activist circles, and by (as previously stated) talking about it with your queer friends. Unless that just makes you outraged, which it might. But I think the loneliness part was always part of it for me.
posted by NoraReed at 8:52 PM on January 27, 2011

Best answer: I was going to post something vaguely snarky, something along the lines of "Welcome to the daily life of every non-white person in America" or the like, but then read sockraticpielogue's DFWesque, eloquent, all-inclusive comment above and suddenly felt very small.

But yes, in essence, what he said. A hundred thousand times over.
posted by war wrath of wraith at 8:53 PM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Nth-ing other responses - just be. You have enough to worry about in your life without having to worry about what other people might think of you and how you live. It's a little nerve-wracking at first, I admit - I got a little shaky the first time I oh-so-casually mentioned my boyfriend at work. No-one cared, the world didn't end, and I felt a little better about myself and my co-workers.

If someone does give you the stink-eye over the whole thing, celebrate! They have just revealed to you that they are someone on whom you do not need to waste your time and energy! One less person in the world to care about....
posted by MShades at 8:58 PM on January 27, 2011

Best answer: I found that a lot of my fatigue over the whole thing dissipated when I made the decision not just to come out, but to be out, all the time, 100%. That doesn't mean I make a point of telling people my orientation, but rather, I make the assumption that everyone already knows, is cool with it, and isn't going to freak out.


I'm trans and hooo, boy, did this issue use to cause me a lot of stress. Unlike being gay, staying in the closet is not an option when interacting with people who knew me pre-transition.

Disclosure. How I'd agonize. I used to have a long, laborious speech (though usually delivered via email) all prepped. "This is who I really am, blah blah blah, always been this way, yadda yadda, been a long journey, bleargrgh." Really, I think that made interactions even more awkward. Lots of over-thinking on both sides with that approach. And, oh, the sympathetic embarrassment... I felt bad because someone else felt bad about me possibly feeling bad because they thought they got my gender wrong when they actually got it right, but didn't know the full extent of things, and ohmygod someone I'm not out to yet just "corrected" them, but now I'll have to recall the "correction" because I need to come out...

An onion of embarrassment, the layers would go so deep.

Nowadays, if the need is there, it's just a quick "OH HAY, don't be surprised if I look and sound different -- I transitioned from female to male a bit ago. I don't like to make a big deal of it, see you next week!"

So far, no one has been phased. No one. I may as well have announced that I have changed my email address, would you kindly update your contacts.

That's not to say I still don't deal with the social burden of being genderqueer. But what used to feel like a death of a thousand cuts has dwindled to some papercuts and only the occasional mild laceration. Sometimes I have to call people out, or give a gentle reminder about an inappropriate comment, but it's pretty rare.

Being unabashedly nonchalant about who I am and matter-of-fact about my rights and feelings when I need to be has done a lot for my mental well-being. As well as improved the attitudes of my family and friends who were not as aware of their hetero privilege prior to my coming out.

Try assuming the best. You may be pleasantly surprised.
posted by Wossname at 9:14 PM on January 27, 2011 [31 favorites]

Best answer: Earlier this week I was an invited speaker at a service club meeting. When the person who was to introduce me asked me if I had a husband I responded "I am married, yes." "So, you have a husband then?" "Actually I have a wife." He was visibly startled, and when he introduced me to the club he just omitted anything having to do with my marital status.

I really thought about it a lot all night, how even in Canada - a country where I can be legally married to my same-sex partner - my sexuality is so shameful that my marital status has to be hidden and my wife erased.

The next morning, the man who had introduced me came to my office and... invited me to join the service club. He said I was "just the type of person" they were looking to recruit. Now, I know that service orgs are hurting for membership (particularly young membership) but the fact that this guy knew I was gay, was made uncomfortable by it, and then came to invite me to join was pretty incredible. I told him that I would think about it, but needed to know if my homosexuality would be a problem. If there was an event, I would be bringing my wife to it. He said that there would be no problems, all the members are adults and can deal.

So, long story, but it kind of sums up my philosophy on being gay in a straight world. I try to treat my sexuality the way straight people treat theirs - I talk about my wife in a normal way, I talk about our life together as though everyone around me already knows and is cool with it. Sometimes I skirt the issue, like at the meeting, but I am usually reminded that it is better to be frank and open than to be quiet.

I am fine being a poster-child if that's what's necessary, I can be the token lesbian, I can be the lesson. People meet me, I act as though they are fine with my sexuality, and they usually are. You never know, that ex-marine could have a gay brother and be a gay-marriage advocate. It's been known to happen. Or, they just needed to actually have a conversation with a gay person they liked to start thinking that they need to reconsider how they view the world.

It sucks having to come out to the dentist, the hairstylist, the FedEx guy, the cashier at the gas station. It really does. But it is so worth it. If you are the first gay person they ever (know) they meet and they react badly... they'll have some time to get used to that and be better prepared the second time they meet a homo.

I came out to the clerk at the liquor store a few months ago. He and his wife were new to Canada, from India, and we were having some neat chats. He asked me about my husband, I told him I have a wife, no way, yes way, no way, yes way, and then... "Here, have your ice for free, come and meet my wife, can I give you a free cowboy hat?" His wife was lovely, and apologized for her husband's disbelief. :) No apologies necessary. Now he's my biggest fan, and I always shop at his liquor store. People will surprise you, if you give them a chance. Don't decide for them that they are bigots, let them make that decision.
posted by arcticwoman at 9:30 PM on January 27, 2011 [46 favorites]

Very happy to meet you! Agreeing with lots above, including spending time with predominant gay & gay-friendly zones and being more out-y out in diverse-er zones.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:53 PM on January 27, 2011

Best answer: Another advantage to being fully out, is you may be surprised by discovering straight allies. Say, if I was in that group at work, together with the former marine, and - let's assume - he did in fact react in a homophobic way, I'd absolutely strongly confront him, ready to take it anywhere he wanted. I despise bullies, and relish confronting them. But I also respect the privacy and decisions of every person as to whether they want to come out or not. However, when you do come out, it gives me a chance to take an unambiguous stand. It's group dynamics - bullies thrive where they think they are on the side of some kind of group consensus against the "outsider". When suddenly other voices are heard backing the supposed "outsider", that dynamic can get inverted pretty fast, and now it's the bigot who is the "outsider". And nothing gets the bully put in his place like someone willing to take it the fuck to the limit "any time, any place". So if you do decide to just be yourself 100% of the time, don't be too shocked when you find that you have a lot more allies than you thought, just looking at a group of "straight" people.
posted by VikingSword at 10:07 PM on January 27, 2011 [7 favorites]

I read Covering by Kenji Yoshino a while ago, so the details are a little fuzzy... but it addresses some of the issues you're asking about. It's a little autobiographic but also kind of academic (he's a law professor).

Also, not sure if this would be helpful (in that it collects lots of these experiences in one place) but a helpful word is you're looking for is microaggressions and there's a tumblr.
posted by polexa at 10:19 PM on January 27, 2011

Best answer: Thank you for this reminder to people like me to keep up our conscious efforts to try to be less heteronormative in our speech and interactions with people!

FYI from an ally: It's been a long time since I've gotten a startled reaction when I say something like "my brother and his ex-husband" whereas it used to really freak people out, so please be cheered by that one data point that the world is getting less heteronormative every day. :)
posted by Jacqueline at 10:33 PM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Often people just want to be polite, but they're not sure how. They expect you to take the lead. If you avoid the topic, they will too. If you treat it like no big deal, they won't make it one, 99% of the time.

As for the stares, people stare at everything different, not necessarily maliciously. The only way to make it less different is to be visible. So be visible, if only as a gift to the next generation coming through.
posted by dave99 at 11:14 PM on January 27, 2011 [7 favorites]

Best answer: The situations you gave weren't all examples of the same thing. Particularly this:

"an older friend of my family implied that I shouldn't have kids because it wouldn't be fair to them to be raised by a gay parent"

You did say specifically that you weren't looking for help with these examples, so I'll be brief and move on. But this is not an example of "ambient heterosexism", it is outright homophobia. We all have to pick out battles, and sometimes it's not worth upsetting the family dynamic, but you have the moral right to stand up to this.

Likewise, the attention you get in public can sometimes be down to outright homophobia. It is a sad fact that we still have to be smart about this for our own safety. But if you know the area is generally safe and all you're risking is a loud tut from an old lady, be proud and ignore it.

What you call "ambient heterosexism" can often just be straight people acting straight, with no hidden meanings or slight intended. It's natural, for example, for straight (any) people to be excited about getting married, having kids, and looking forward to grand kids. As a gay man, this kind of talk makes me want to stick needles in my eyes, but I know there's never any pointed subtext, and I don't expect or want anybody to feel like they need to watch what they say around me. Because, in exactly the same way, I want to feel like I can talk about things that are important to me around them, without fear of causing offence.

So this is true equality, and it works both ways. As a minority group it means we'll often find ourselves conversing about things that may not be relevant to us (just as, as a man, I sometimes have to talk about football. Don't get me started...) But it also means that, when we want to, we can pipe up about our own experiences and know that we're being heard and understood.
posted by londonmark at 2:46 AM on January 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

So, not only am I very casually and extremely openly out with my gayness, I think one thing that helps me cope with these problems is that I genuinely look down on heterosexist people.

I am out in every area of my life. I never play pronoun games, if I need to bring up my partner for some reason, I do. As other people have said, I don't make an issue of it, and I assume other people won't have issues with it as well.

And if they do have issues with it? If I actually hear homophobic comments? In my mind, I belittle these people. I actively talk down to them. I assume they are dumb hicks with the maturity level of a teenager, since high school is where the most rampant homophobia is. If I meet them online, I instantly assume they are a child and treat them like so. Or, if they are old, I equate them with some old Southern racist grandpa, who stopped learning anything new in their 40s, and who is likely a little daft, doesn't know any better, and will die off soon anyways.

Because ultimately? Gay people will get equal rights, we will become integrated into society, and eventually these things won't be an issue at all. There is no doubt in my mind this will happen barring some sort of fundamental Christianist revolution. Eventually, time will prove these people ignorant.

Maybe this isn't very generous. Maybe it's being snobbish, but I don't actually give a damn. I'm not about to worry about hurting the feelings of people who actively think I am lesser than they are merely because of my sexual orientation.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 7:40 AM on January 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

I make the assumption that everyone already knows, is cool with it, and isn't going to freak out.

Also want to support this as a good way to go. If you expect the best of people, it can set you up for disappointment, but people will surprise you so often. I think people often live up to your expectations for them, and so many are just looking for guidance on how to react. If you treat it like it's no big deal and you expect them to feel the same, people will.

I can't but think that there's an excellent chance that your ex-Marine co-worker, upon seeing that you're strong, confident and direct about yourself and your life, will follow your lead in regarding it as a non-issue. Former servicemembers have extensive experience in following orders and subordinating themselves to authority. And being confident / expecting others to be grown-ups about your sexual orientation is a way of establishing your authority on this issue.
posted by fugitivefromchaingang at 8:33 AM on January 28, 2011

Best answer: A lot of life isn't fair. There are small injustices and big screaming ones. Most of us deal with one or the other or some variety in between.

I have a special needs kid. When I see other kids his age doing things he can't do, it hurts. A lot. It's not fair and it's not right and I feel tears welling up in my eyes every single time, even though I should be able to deal with this already.

And I know that there are parents who see me with my beautiful kid, and maybe they're infertile or maybe they lost a child, and they see my kid laughing and reaching for me, and they think, "she's so lucky, that kid is so lucky, life is so stinking unfair."

Someone might look at you and think, "she can walk and doesn't need a wheelchair like I do" or "she's so beautiful, I wish I didn't have this scar on my face" or "look at her with her girlfriend, I wish I had somebody to love me like that", or WHATEVER. To plenty of people, you are someone to be deeply envied on many levels.

Everybody deals with something. I'm not dismissing or minimizing the pain that you're clearly feeling. I'm sorry you have to deal with the big and small hurts that being gay in our society sometimes throws your way. It shouldn't be like that. I try to be more compassionate and less judgmental .. but I probably have said things like your friend on Facebook did and unknowingly hurt you. Just like it's a knife in my heart when another parent talks about a milestone for their child that my kid might never achieve.

I'm just saying ... I'm with you. Our problems are different but we both feel this pain. Maybe, probably, most people do. All we can do is look for the good and celebrate it when we find it.
posted by Kangaroo at 9:07 AM on January 28, 2011 [12 favorites]

2nding that life isn't fair.

You think your question is about being gay, but it isn't. It's really about learning to accept that stupid people will say, do and think stupid things. A good friend of mine is black and married to a white woman. He was offered a job in a very conservative city. They had to factor in whether their marriage would be considered acceptable in that town. THEY SHOULDN'T HAVE TO! ...but life isn't fair.

There are things we simply have to accept whether we like them or not. I'm legally blind. You can't even imagine the downright ignorant things people say to me all the time.
posted by 2oh1 at 12:28 PM on January 28, 2011

- a dear friend, who's totally pro-gay, posted on facebook about how happy she is to be "married filing jointly" this year. I know that wasn't remotely intended to hurt anyone, but it reminds me that as long as DOMA stands, that's something I wouldn't be allowed to do
I use opportunities like this to let my friends know that I do not have access to these kinds of benefits. Often they are shocked (or at least they pretend to be :)) that I cannot legally marry (in Oregon) or that if I lived in a state where I could marry, the US Government would not recognize my marriage.

Even when this stuff is in the news, I think a lot of straight folks don't pay attention to it the way queer folk do.
posted by elmay at 12:34 PM on January 28, 2011

Wossname (and many others) nailed it re: being matter-of-fact about your rights and feelings, particularly when you're feeling most uncertain.

When I was helping my partner, who is trans, try to find a specialist only to be told by one receptionist "we don't treat those kind of people," all the hetero privilege that we had in the world didn't do a damn. It was a momentary hurtful setback but then we found someone else and they were great. Go forward thinking that you deserve the best life possible and regardless of what other ignorant people may think, you just might get it.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 3:07 PM on January 28, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! You all are awesome.

I was trying to be brief, so I left out that I do take most opportunities to come out and I've been heavily involved with LGBT advocacy (and other kinds of civil rights advocacy), so it's not so much that I don't know how to address these situations. The piece of it I still struggle with is how to understand and deal with the emotional impact of so often being confronted with the question of whether I'll be accepted. But writing that out, it's pretty clear that's something that most everyone deals with regularly in one way or another, many people in more serious ways than I do. Which is what you all are mostly saying ;) So maybe these moments where I tend to feel distanced can instead be moments where I feel closer to others, realizing that we all wonder if we'll be accepted in our own way. I think seeing it that way will help me a lot.

And I think I'm going to experiment with not stopping myself at all from coming out -- I'd say I come out 90% of the time that the words come to mind, but maybe I should find out what trying for 100% feels like.
posted by zahava at 6:00 PM on January 28, 2011

Sometimes it's most comforting to be out amongst like-minded persons. And sometimes one might try to be there, and there only.

This isn't the way to go for me, though. Although I like it best in a warm nest of like-minded individuals. When I'm not there, I try to fit in. Usually by not telling anyone anything. But that gets old. And as well, it gets tedious. Sometimes it gets me very angry.

When I worked as a janitor in both the WTC and the Empire State Building, my sexuality was not an issue of discussion. But, I was married. The fact that I had sex with men as well as women wasn't something I could or would bring up, as you might imagine. But when I was working at the ESB I ended up going to a totally straight Irish bar with a group of people for after work revelry. We ended up at several tables in groups and my table had a gay man and a lesbian. The tables were small. Three to a table. And while the other two folks discussed things, I was amazed to realise that they were very out at the job. So I told them that while I was married I was also bi. They did not believe me. They thought that while I seemed like a nice guy, they didn't appreciate the game I was playing. trying to fit in when it wasn't true.

Eventually after a long night of drinking and personal stories of sexual encounters they decided that I wasn't just making shit up. It might have been the description of giving a man oral sex after using vaseline on his penis for other things and the fact that it was impossible to get that crap out of my mouth and throat for a day afterward that won them over.

Sorry if this is not helpful. Just saying that coming out is a lot like not coming out. Just be happy.
posted by Splunge at 6:37 PM on January 28, 2011

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