Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Hazards of Not Coming Out Part II

Thanks Robert, for letting me post this. By the way, Robert was the facilitator for the discussion.


'I may not be out, but I live a perfectly happy life.' But do you? If human beings are good at adapting to suit a circumstance and getting used to it in the process, they are even better at self-denial, or some call it self-deception, especially in the context of coming out. This is achieved through this thing called compartmentalisation - thus there are compartments for your gay friends and gay activities, your straight family and friends and straight events, gay friends you can be seen with in public (because they act straight) and those who cannot, colleagues you have come out to and those you should hide your sexuality from at all costs. Layers upon layers of self censorship, and then you bury your head in the sand and declare it a 'happy' life.

Take, for example, the attending of a function. If you are gay, you typically go alone (whether you are attached or not) and spend the time fending off questions about your delayed nuptials. Unfortunately all those 'I am still young' or 'I haven't met the right girl' have a finite shelf life. These lines can, at best, be a delaying tactic, but they are far from being fool-proof. Whilst people might buy it when you are in your 20's, they are less likely to do so when you are in your 30's or 40's. So, there is you thinking that everyone is fooled by your excuses, and there is everyone sniggerring behind you because they know better, or certainly suspect so. The worst part is, you live in constant anxiety that someone is going to find out, and find out they will.

This serves to undermine the frequent saying that what is not known doesn't hurt, typically in a family context. Because if you are going to be found out sooner or later, it will hurt just as much whichever way it comes from, and certainly more humiliating for your family if it has to come from an external source. This emerged as a sound piece of advice from Simon that if you take the initiative to come out yourself, at least you would have total control over the situation and can deal with any ensuing damage accordingly.

In many cases where a gay man is chastised by his family upon their discovery, by default, of his sexuality, it can be as much due to the family's anger at having been deceived as the sexuality itself.

Whilst some people may equate coming out with the search for a more convenient and freer gay lifestyle that they could manage without, albeit begrudgingly; the long term effect of a secret double life behind the family is often overlooked. The more you live a separate life from your family, the less they know about your life, and the more isolated you become. This is particularly manifested among gay men of a certain age who has no partner, no family support and no gay community to fall back on. Even among gay relationships, the lack of family support can frequently be a strain which in many cases can lead to unwarranted breakups.

The same can be said about work situation. In order to avoid being found out, we keep ourselves to ourselves, and run for cover whenever an anti-gay remark is uttered instead of correcting or confronting it. Yet, we spend half of our life and time at work, would it not be less stressful and more enjoyable if we could have a clear conscience and live an honest life? Yes, honesty, that is what ultimately all this is about. After all, if we ever want equality with the next straight guy (that is what we all want, isn't it?), we can't do it without honesty - honesty to yourself , honesty to your family and honesty to the society at large.

Needless to say, all of the above acknowledges the difficulties of coming out, especially in this region, and the fact that each individual is the best judge of his particular circumstance.


Paragraph four made me think about the possibility of coming out and the consequences. Undoubtedly, my parents would freak out. Disappointed, angry and hurt. A tumult of emotions.

Someone once told me that, parents ALWAYS want what is best for the child and give them that. Of course, this is based on what they think is best. What they think is best, may not necessarily be the best from the child’s point of view.

A very good example would be the common practice of sending children to tuition / piano lessons / mental arithmetic / taekwondo / all of them. Now tell me, is that really in the child’s best interest?

Clearly, in their upbringing and the environment that they know (friends, relatives, colleagues), they are not exposed to gay people. It is natural for people to fear what they do not understand.

They think it is abnormal and disgusting. It’s just that they haven’t seen how normal we are. We have emotions, problems and needs too, just like everybody else.

As such, parents need education to understand what homosexuality is all about. It can’t happen overnight. Coming out, unexpectedly, would be a big bombshell. They would have no time to digest, as it is no different from shoving the truth down their throats.

As be seen from Eric’s coming out on Astro AEC, he said it took him several years to prepare his parents mentally. In addition, a psychologist, who is also a columnist on Fridae, Clarence Singam shares the same view. Obviously, this is the better way, as they would have years to get accustomed to the truth and hopefully, hurt less (of course, the truth still hurts anyway).

Seriously, I don’t even know where to start. Communication with my dad is almost non-existent. Mom is a bit more understanding, but not by much.

The issue is not pressing now, but I’ll have to think of something sooner or later.

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