Yesterday was National Coming Out Day in the USA, some other countries, and online. I wasn’t aware of it – not being a very international day, I guess this is not a surprise.
Like many of these new-fangled web-based days of celebration (day of the sister; day of the brother etc. ) they are American creations, used as marketing gimmicks, for consumer goods and campaigns; and are very easy to promote through social media.
With my cynic’s hat on, I doubt that National Coming Out Day was celebrated with parades and parties in Saudi Arabia or Russia or Uganda.
Then again I am mature and bitter, and probably now too removed from the whole process to have any meaningful connection to this day in particular.
I remember the tortuous days of my own coming out – as a feckless youth back in the 1990s. The slow, grinding, terrifying process of revealing my deepest, darkest, scariest secret. Never having met an openly gay person, I was terrified of the reactions. In case people rejected me, or called me a pervert, or punched me.
Needless to say my fears were not realised. Back then, Ireland was not the most liberal of places, but neither was it the repressive, conservative, insular land of twitching curtains of twenty years earlier. By and large it was just a general shrug of the shoulders and a grunt when I told my tale. I was somewhat disappointed. There was no melodrama and gnashing of teeth. It was all very beige. Not a single person called me an ‘abomination’. Which I was sort of hoping for – purely for the twisted thrill of it.
I’m being sarcastic of course. Lack of drama was exactly the type of response that I should have been hoping for, and expecting. When you are taking a shot into the unknown however, and when you are possessed of a slightly deranged imagination like I am, then you expect (even wish for) a sprinkling of gothic horror.
Some of my comings-out were more memorable than others. I recall sitting upstairs in a circle of people in the old Keatings Pub on Henry Street (it’s now a McDonalds); asking the group if it liked me – being horrified when one of them jokingly told me that he detested me – and then making my big announcement. To the sound of whistling tumbleweed. I remember my mother being surprised that I’d told my sisters before I’d told her, and with her being impressed by their ability to keep a secret. I remember coming out at my first job in Dublin – mainly to alleviate the dreariness of the place; and subsequently befriending an unsuccessful American contestant in the Rose of Tralee. Then there was the coming out to my housemates.
It was almost a full time job. Over and over again. To every new person I met.
To my shame, I once owned a ‘How dare you presume that I am straight?’ badge. The notions on me.
I felt it was important. To be visible. To be a warrior. I was making a difference. And changing the world.
Until I realised that I wasn’t. And that my actual responsibilities were not towards the wider world but to myself and those people within my sphere. While I could be interested in and invested in the situation for gay people in Uganda or Russia, aside from writing an occasional strongly worded email of complaint; or attending a cheeky protest rally, then my influence was limited. And that I’m not responsible for the world.
This laziness is perhaps related to the realization that being out, while the wisest personal choice was not necessarily the best choice in terms of career advancement. That the fake relationship with colleagues is already as shallow as a puddle, and to deliberately and systematically place yourself outside their realm of suburban bliss is not going to make you friends and influence people.
So I stopped coming out at work.
Naturally anyone who has any level of awareness can spot the unicorns spilling from my mouth. As confirmed by the time I had a beer can thrown at my head in the Blue Mountains in Sydney by teenagers who roared ‘faggot’ at me from their car. Or the slap across the side of the head I received while walking down the street, from some guy in Amsterdam as he called me ‘flikker’. To being called ‘bender’ by a homeless guy in Dublin a few weeks ago.
I certainly don’t pretend to be have a wife and two kids. I’m not in the closet.
It’s just that the whole ‘actively coming out’ thing is over for me. If someone asks me if I’m light in the loafer, then I’ll confirm the obvious. But I won’t volunteer any information.
No-one at work will care. Issues not relating to Snotty Jimmy or Pissy Betty, are not important to my settled, suburbanite colleagues.
Happy belated coming out day everyone. I hope it’s good for you.