7.13.2009

Indian Advice on the Closet

I've been thinking about coming out lately. I was reading a book of Indian proverbs* and came across one that said, "Let your eyes be offended by the sight of lying and deceitful men." I then asked myself, Would my eyes be offended if I looked in the mirror? Am I deceiving people on a daily basis?

My mother's advice in a recent conversation was, "You never know. It just takes one--some special girl could come along and..." I said, "What would you say if the tables were turned and your mother said, 'Just wait for that special girl who will come along and magically turn you gay'?" I also reminded her that plenty of gay Mormons have done just that--waited for 'that special girl', sincerely fell in love with her, and married her in the Temple...only to have the supressed feelings explode a few years later. (As Stephen Covey said, "Unexpressed feelings come forth later in uglier ways.")

Then she said, "Just be open. At your age, you're searching for an identity--I know, I remember. You're young, and things change. People change." I am willing to 'be open', but I also know that there comes a point when you have to face reality and deal with the facts. The sooner the better, I tend to think. I realize that many adolescents who think they are gay are merely experimenting--physically or mentally--but I have looked inward and realized that I really am gay and really will, in all likelihood, remain that way. It took a long time to face the fact, but when I finally did, I felt an increased measure of clarity. And, I mentioned, this is not an exercize in identity-seeking. The fact of the matter is, I'm a pretty conservative guy who identifies much more readily with an equally conservative church than a community with a reputation for being a bit wild (the LGBT community at large, not the MoHo sub-group). And as far as culture, I'm more comfortable with the religious culture I grew up in and love than the rather, by definition, sexualized world of homosexuality (what many contemptuously--and erroneously--term "the lifestyle").

After hearing this, she said, "Well, what do you want to do? Make an announcement in the six o'clock news?" Her advice was that my sexuality really isn't other people's business, and I don't need to make it their business. And to a point, I quite agree: I don't have to sit my friends down and tell them I was born out of wedlock. Nor do I need to stand up at a family reunion and announce that I hate lettuce. So it's not like I need to issue a press release to come out as gay.

...And it was then that I read a second applicable proverb in the book, a Huron saying that goes, "Let your nature be known and proclaimed." This does sound like sound advice: if I'm not ashamed of who and what I am, there's nothing to hide. On the other hand, I don't climb up on the roof and shout, "I'M A CYCLOTHYMIC!", even though that would be "let[ing my] nature be known and proclaimed". So I'm curious--Do you agree with this quote? Is it better to let people know you're gay, or simply let them worry about it if they must (even if it means they sit around and wonder until they finally ask you upfront)?

Put another way: I think being out is not the act of announcing your sexuality but rather a state of mind, one in which you don't live with in fear of people "finding out". So, if you are in this state of mind, and you are willing to be honest and open with people, do you...
  1. Tell your associates and end the mystery once and for all: "There's something I need to talk to you about..."
  2. Be yourself, and let others think what they want of you. If they do ask you, be honest with them, but don't make a federal case out of it: "Q: Are you gay? A: Yeah, so what?" (that was how it went for Rep. Barney Frank, anyway).
Very interested to hear your thoughts!

*Zona, Guy. The Soul Would Have No Rainbow If the Eyes Had No Tears and Other Native American Proverbs. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994.

6 comments:

Abelard Enigma said...

I think being out is not the act of announcing your sexuality but rather a state of mind

That's an interesting idea that I'm going to have to think about some more.

I agree that coming out doesn't mean making a big deal about it - but there are some people whom you may feel deserve to hear it directly from you rather than through rumors. It becomes a delicate balance with how much you say and to whom - and how much you just don't worry about it.

Alan said...

Coming out is a continuing process. I don't get in people's faces about it. I consider each relationship in my life case by case and decide whether it'd be better or worse if I came out to that person. And do they really need to know, would they care anyway? If it'd make things better for me and/or them, if they'd react with support and not disdain, if it helps the relationship rather than hurting it, then why not. Otherwise, ask yourself what you hope to accomplish, and weigh against possible negatives.

That's why it's a continuing process, I guess.

But damn, I wish I'd had your maturity when I was your age!

Scott said...

I think being out is not the act of announcing your sexuality but rather a state of mind...

Well, there's "coming out" and there's "being out", and I think you can be out without having actually done a whole lot of coming out.

That is, I agree with your definition of being out, but I also agree with Alan that coming out is a process, and with Abelard that some people deserve to be told straight up (no pun intended) who you are.

I consider myself "out". I'm at a point where I couldn't care less who knows that I'm gay. But there are several people in my life who don't know (several co-workers, for example), simply because there hasn't been any compelling reason to tell them. If they ever have a reason to ask me, I'll have no problem telling them that yes, I am, and if they ever find out through the grapevine I'll have no problem with that. But for now, it would seem out of place for me to stomp into work one day and say "hey, I'm gay!".

But I have specifically told everyone in my immediate family, and several of my friends, and--because I felt prompted to do so--my ward. In the case of my family and friends, I wanted the people who cared about me to understand me better than they could without that particular piece of information. In the case of my ward... it was just the right thing to do, for reasons I still haven't really figured out.

Not sure if I actually said anything that wasn't already said in the original post or the comments people have already made, but there's my two cents. :)

Bravone said...

Frank, Some good advice given above. I too am amazed at your maturity. One BIG difference between you and most of us, is that you are still in high school. While you are mature, many in high school are not. Being out to yourself and family is important because you don't have to keep it all bottled up inside or be ashamed of who you are. So one of the benefits of coming out, you already have.

I would hate to see you hurt by some thoughtless kids at school, who can be very cruel. Give them a few years, and they would probably handle the information much better.

Another thing to think about is what does being gay mean to you and what are your goals in life that could be affected by others knowing your sexuality. Let's face it, it is not always a gay friendly world out there. Why should someone have the opportunity to discriminate against you because of your personal sexuality?

Some know about my sexuality and most don't. I only share with those whom I think have a right or need to know. If I can help someone in their life by sharing my story, I will.

I do agree that the more people can see good examples of gay people living healthy lives of integrity, the more the walls of misunderstanding and discrimination will hopefully begin to fall. I would just encourage you to use prayer and caution to decide if that is something you should be championing at this stage of your life.

Feel free to give me a call sometime if you would like.

Frank Lee Scarlet said...

Thanks for the advice! It really is helpful in trying to understand this intimidating area.

Looking at all three comments together, it sounds like coming out is a process shaped by the appropriateness and necessity of each circumstance and relationship, and that once you're out, there still will be people who don't know and some who don't care to know. A fair summary?

@Abe: Quite agree that some need to hear it straight from the horse's mouth, and for others it just doesn't matter.

@Alan: I like your case-by-case criteria...sounds like a smart way to go about it. Oh and thanks for the compliment :-)

@Scott: Thanks for distinguishing "being" and "coming" out--I see what you mean.

Frank Lee Scarlet said...

Bravone, thanks for the advice--wise, as always--and the support--needed, as always! The issues you bring up are serious ones that I will need to deeply consider before I act on this in any way. I particularly see what you mean about high school students...for many teenagers, this kind of news would be handled in a much better way in a couple of years. (At the same time, *someone* has to be the first penguin through the ice...)
And you're right--I would need to think long and hard before pegging myself, in effect, to the gay cause and stereotype (which I realize would be associated with me in the minds of those around me--quite possibly irrevocably--even if I were to reject the stereotypes and everything).
Thank you for making me pause to reconsider picking up the inevitable baggage at such a young age. I guess the question now is a matter of weighing that baggage against any possible benefits of coming out. Perhaps there is some good I could do as a trailblazer in our narrow little community. Or, perhaps it would be better to wait until I reached a place where the benefits of being out wouldn't be accompanied with so many of the *problems* of being out. Either way, as you said, I need to rely on prayer to know.