Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Hazards of Not Coming Out

There is a PT Foundation (formerly Pink Triangle) session every Sunday at 3pm, which discusses gay-related issues. Two Sundays ago, the topic was The Hazards of Not Coming Out. I wasn’t there, but my friend Darrel was. Below is his experience.


I think this is an interesting perspective to look at this issue. Instead of talking about the advantages of coming out, i.e. to live a real honest life, to realise one's true potential, to make it easier for one to find a partner...etc, to be able to discuss about the hazards offers and different view to the whole matter.

So what are the hazards of not coming out?

Robert asked a very interesting question: WHAT IS IT THAT WE FEAR MOST ABOUT COMING OUT? what is it? You see, we always thought that by NOT coming out, we can actually avoid facing that biggest fear of ours, and sweep it under the carpet. BUT, the ironic thing is, the very thing that we fear most will one day, inevitably, come back to haunt us.


Those two questions made me think long and hard. So what is it that I fear most? I guess, my biggest fear is not getting accepted, getting rejected for who I am. And I guess, my biggest fear of all, is not getting accepted by my own family and loved ones. I supposed that is why I always contemplate with caution the idea of coming out to my family. The stakes are high and it has to be planned properly if I ever want to come out to them at all!

So how does that fear actually change the things that I do?

Well...lots. For one, I have always introduced my friends to my family. My mom knows my friends from primary school, secondary school and university. Right now, I have a group of really significant friends whom I care deeply - my friends who happen to be gay. And sadly and strangely, my mom doesn’t know them.

Am I secretly ashamed of them, just as I am secretly ashamed of myself? Err... No, but what is preventing me from inviting them to my house and introducing them to my family just as I have done so for my other friends who happen to be straight?

My intellect tells me that I am just as NORMAL as anyone can be, that I can be proud of myself because I am who I am and homosexuality should have no effect on my self-pride. My intellect tells me that my friends who happen to be gay, deserve to be treated with the same respect and privileges that I accord to all my friends. But alas, I obviously still have some internalised homophobia that I need to deal with.

After being rather outspoken about gay marriage and gay rights, this realisation about myself came as a rude shock. How could I possibly treat these friends whom I really care about, so badly?

Robert than points out something that is prevalent even among the gay community. Now how many of us actually used the word 'PLU' when we are conversing among gay friends in the midst of straight people? How many of us, in fact, only use the single letter "G" to mean Gay, as in G-friends, G-lives, G-people, G-magazine, G-themed movie, G-string (just kidding).

This reminds me of a conversation between Harry Potter and Prof Dumbledore. For a long time now, the magical community, the witches and the wizards has avoided calling The-One-Who-Cannot-Be-Named, and instead calling him You-Know-Who. But Prof Dumbledore is determined that Harry should call him by his real name, which is simply, Voldermort. By avoiding his real name, the wizarding community has created an envelope of fear and mystery of that person. But by calling him by his true name, one sees him as he truly is - just a person, albeit an evil one.

So why do we call ourselves "G" or PLU. We are gays, we are homosexuals, we are people who happen to feel attracted to members of our own sex. So what? We are still we. Nothing has changed. By avoiding calling ourselves as we are, we unwittingly create a sense of shame about ourselves, knowing or unknowingly, as though we are something that should not be spoken about.



I found this extremely interesting, as I haven’t looked at it from this point of view either. Also, I like his comparison with Harry Potter and I couldn't have said it better myself.

Personally, I don’t care what other people think. I used to be quite self-conscious about my appearance, how I act or what I do, in public places and with friends and family.

But then I realized that people have their own problems and preoccupations too. Each and everyone of us has our own lives, friends, issues, dilemmas, etc.

Try putting yourself in another person’s shoes. Let’s say you were in Delifrance and you overheard the people at the next table discussing about gay people, places or gay issues. They don’t strike you as gay as they are dressed decently and look like professionals. Though it’s obvious they do have immaculate dress sense (I know I am exaggerating here, since this does not apply to all gays).

You begin to look at them differently. You even perked up your ears to listen to what they are saying. That is, if you are curious and a bit of a busybody. Which, of course, everyone is.

But, I would think that the more common reaction is to listen a bit more and then later forget all about it. Yes, you might get all excited in the beginning, speaking in hushed tones to your friends, ”Yer, those people are gay.” And you listen more intently. For a while.

How long can the excitement last anyway? I bet it’s less than five minutes. Ten minutes max. What exactly would they find so interesting? Nothing. I am sure they are more interested in their own topics of conversation regarding sex (for the guys) and shopping (for the girls).

Ok, I apologise for being sexist. ;P

But the point is they would not find us interesting. They may pick up on the gay word and then lose interest after a while. The worse thing that they might do is to stare. I don’t think they will start any gay-bashing and start throwing utensils at us, do you?

This Delifrance example is actually what I experienced when I met my very first net friend in KLCC. There was a lady reading book, sitting at the next table, who was clearly listening to our conservation. But I reckon she found her book to be more interesting, after listening for a while.

As such, now I usually just speak whatever I want. Though I admit that sometimes I used “P”, as in PLU, as a substitute to the word gay. This is especially when the person I am with is gay and is paranoid.

And I have just shown, the paranoia is unfounded.

On the other hand, it goes to show that we are indeed not confident of ourselves and we treat ourselves as outcast of society. It further reinforces the idea of ourselves being abnormal and thus, internalized

But of course I have to respect that some people are just not ready for that and might be uncomfortable with the notion. There was once that I bumped into my friend at MPH. We exchanged the usual greetings of how are you. Then I asked how was his boyfriend doing.

I got a smack on the arm instead.

Another hazard is mental anguish and perhaps, disorder. I have blogged on this before, under Perfect Guy with a Dark Secret. He said:

I could well be the proverbial perfect guy – clean living; good, religious image; wonderful career. I've had a few failed relationships with girls.

But behind closed door, the devil is also in me – I harbour lust and affection for guys. I've never been open about it because I've always believed I could control this behaviour.

Lately, my career took a downturn and because of family pressure, I became depressed. Since then, I have been increasingly open about my dual sexuality. I socialise more with gays and, at times, follow their lifestyle too.

When someone is not out, he is actually not being himself, but being someone that pleases other people or fulfills other people’s expectations. This double identity is indeed strenuous to maintain and could possibly lead to depression and suicidal tendencies.

I am not trying to be harsh to those who are still not out. Though, I think it is a good idea to relook at the fears that one has. Think whether it is actually doing you any good and how long one can go on being in the closet.

On the other hand, I am not advocating that you go tell everyone and fully come out. But surely, there is at least one person in your life who knows you for you are and who is understanding, but you choose not to tell him or her.

As for myself, I have been thinking about this too. I do feel frustrated sometimes when some unflattering comment is made about gays. More often than not, I give in to my fears and insecurities.

Also, there is a running joke at my work place about myself and another male colleague, who is straight. And very straight-acting. I think it started because we always have lunch and hang out together. Talk about irony.

Wait till they find out that it is no joke. Or perhaps they already know?

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