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Happy National Coming Out Day! I guess that’s a thing. Apropos of that, Boy, it’s a good thing having an awkward moment at a get-together doesn’t send me into a spiral of self-loathing and despair anymore.

No joke, that used to happen. I’d flub a handshake1

or tell an unfunny joke or be the wrong kind of geeky when everybody else was being the right kind of cool, and I’d hear in the resultant silence the death-knoll of any hope I’d ever had of unweird, unawkward, uncreepy social intercourse, and it’d be back to the closet for me.

I don’t mean the closet where gay people are secretly gay, just the closet where sad people are secretly sad and lonely people are secretly lonely and nobody else ever comes inside, where pain and the shame of being in pain reinforce each other in an endless feedback loop.

But, like I say, I’m glad that doesn’t happen any more. It’s not that I’m not awkward anymore. It’s just that I don’t care when I am. Q.v. this episode out on the smoking porch at a get-together recently.

P: So what do you do?
JP: Well, I’m a web developer, and then I do some freelance writing.
P: Oh, what kind of writing?
JP: Oh, I blog a bit, and try to send my stuff wherever I can.
P: Neat, what’s the blog about?
JP: It’s, er, about faith and sexuality and mental health.
P: Cool, I’m interested in those things too! What’s it called?
JP: Uh, “Catholic, Gay, and Feeling Fine”.
P: Sorry, Catholic what?
JP: [Striving to speak clearly without sounding overemphatic] Catholic, GAY, and Feeling Fine.
P: Oh! Mm-hm! [Nodding.]
CRICKETS: Oh, ho de hum, ho de hum.
OTHERS: [Furtive glances]
P: So, this is nice! Nice party!

To which my internal response up might have been: “Oh gosh. Was I giving too much away too soon? Why did I even bring that up? Did I want him to ask what the blog was called? Wait, but would it be okay if I had wanted that? Am I some kind of exhibitionist? Am I turning into one of those people who can’t shut up about being gay, gay, gay? GAAAHHH I better reevaluate the way I interact with other humans,” etc., etc.

But, yeah, anyway, it wasn’t. I honestly don’t know if I was trying to bring up my homosexuality, but if I was, everybody’s a little narcissistic sometimes, and it’s not that big a deal. I should be allowed to mention my blog’s title in conversation with friends. I’m not trying to push an agenda. I’m just talking.

And I know P. wasn’t trying to make me feel awkward. It’s just that somebody scraped a chair right when I said “gay”, plus most people’s ears aren’t used to hearing the word “gay” in a sincere context, plus it’s not something you want to accidentally mis-hear, so it pays to be sure. And, afterwards, the silence wasn’t because people were annoyed with me for bringing it up. They just didn’t know what was okay to say and what wasn’t.

When I told Ryan G. I was gay, it was in the relatively early days of our friendship, and I sort of slipped it in by mentioning that my blog was about being Catholic and dealing with same-sex attraction. There was a silence, and then he asked, “So, um, but do you mean YOU or other people?” So of course I clarified, and silently blessed him for being willing to make up for my circumlocution with a direct question, even if it made him feel awkward. I was indirect, because I was kind of scared; he was direct, because he is kind of generous.

Everybody’s full of good intentions, but nobody’s sure what the rules are yet for talking about this, and that’s not anybody’s fault. Are you supposed to ask questions, or is asking questions rude? Are you supposed to congratulate, or commiserate? Should you start making oral sex jokes and gestures for no reason?2

I don’t have definitive answers for most of those questions, but in general I appreciate openness and assume you’re benevolent unless you make it a point to prove me wrong. Mainly I just want to live in a society where gayness is something that people are allowed to mention in passing, without it being A Thing. I want that to happen.

Sometimes the best way to make something happen is to pretend that it already has, and let the rest take care of itself.

1 More gold here, Additionally, Gweenbrick, my new favorite neurotic blogger genius superhero, bemoans these moments here:
Even some of the hipper Special Needs students that I work with lapse into disillusionment when I flub yet another half hug to folded fingers switch grip slide and snap on the dismount that they greet me with.

Oh, and now I perceive that I accidentally stole the word “flub” from him.

2 This is, to date, the most offensive way anybody has ever responded to my revelation, and it’s the only time somebody’s response has actually made me angry. So, don’t do that.

10 thoughts on “Ain’t No Thing

  1. Yanmega

    I get to be the first poster on a posting on my very first post? Delightful.(I’m a language geek, so the fact that I just got to use the word “post” in three very different ways in one sentence was cool to me).

    In any case, in a Facebook chat earlier, one of my closest friends casually mentioned Coming Out Day in a somewhat satirical manner. It made my blood run cold. I scrambled to try and change the subject as fast as possible, which I managed to do without her seeing how awkward I got in that exchange.

    This just reminded me of how far I still have to go. I’m definitely still where you were in terms of the awkwardness. I’m better online (obviously), but if this would have been a face to face interaction, I would have started stammering/turning a very awkward shade of red.

    This is mainly because I have yet to figure out, really, who I am. I know I have the whole SSA/gay thing going on, but I don’t know how deep that goes for me. The only thing I really know is that I’m Catholic, but even some days, that seems questionable. I did the whole “coming out” thing once, only to have time a few months later when I was less sure of this, where I basically thought “what the hell did I do?”

    Because of kind of mental flip flopping, I don’t know if it would even be practical to mention to my friends, no matter how close I am to them, of my struggles with this. My biggest concern with this is that they will continue making awkward jokes like this, that they could potentially set me up with someone, or that, if and when I do tell them, they jump on me for being “dishonest” and we lose the friendship that way.

    Life is an awkward, confusing mess sometimes, eh? In any case, keep doing what you’re doing, sir. It’s been great to feel like someone else out there understands and has been through something that I feel the need to compulsively hide from the rest of the world. Less loneliness is always good.

    Reply
    1. P.J.

      I have what you described, too: a reticence to fully disclose that I’m “gay” because I wonder, “What if it changes later on down the road? What if I end up having to eat crow and say, ‘Hey, I was wrong. I’m now finding myself able to marry a woman, so I take back that whole “I’m gay” thing.’” (Wow, I just wrote a quote within a quote within a quote! I hope I punctuated it properly).

      Anyway, I agree with you — life is an awkward, confusing mess sometimes.

      Reply
  2. P.J.

    Joey,

    Are you ever finding it anti-climactic to tell people you’re gay? I mean, what’s supposed to happen next?

    Does it change your life much once you do share this? Do you suddenly feel closer/more connected to others once you do?

    I ask this because I’ve not told many people, and when I imagine doing so, I’m not convinced that a whole lot will change in terms of the quality of my life.

    I mean, sure — people will know another piece of information about me, and I guess that has some value — but it won’t change the fact that I’m living a different reality than they are.

    While they’re partnering up, marrying, having children, grandchildren, etc., I’ll be living a life vastly different from that, so it seems to me that whether I disclose or don’t disclose my sexuality, there will always be a “chasm” causing a bit of isolation and separation from my heterosexual peers.

    Being “different”, I have to say, is one of the most unpleasant aspects of life, because even the most introverted of us (of which I am the poster child) is still a social creature. And whether we declare our SSA for all to hear or keep it to ourselves, it doesn’t change the fact that we’re living a different reality from 90% of the world.

    Reply
    1. Rivka

      When I first discovered I had Aspergers, it was really exciting because it explained so much about my life. Maybe I expected others to share in that excitement. Whatever my expectations were, the experience of actually telling them turned out to be disappointing. Exactly one person, my best friend, understood. And it deepened our friendship, if anything, it was a turning point. It turned out he thinks he is AS as well.
      But with everyone else; they just didn’t really understand what it was like, and didn’t even really care. Anti-climactic? yes.

      Reply
  3. RW

    Hi Steve (I’ve been a follower for a while, so it’s still strange for me to call you Joey, sorry I’ll owkr on that)

    I’m wondering your thoughts on the idea of “inviting in” instead of “coming out”. I believe you already kind of do this, but as I don’t know you personally, can’t say for sure.

    (link: http://thefeministwire.com/2012/07/coming-out-or-inviting-in-part-ii/)

    For me (a catholic guy with SSA but also OSA) I find this is more in line with how I deal with this “coming out” phenomenon.

    Reply
  4. yanmega

    P.J. — Near as I can tell, you did the quote inside a quote inside a quote thing correctly. I have honestly never seen that before! Nifty.

    I suppose the one benefit to having done the whole coming out thing to immediate family members is that, to some degree, it’s less awkward to be around them. However, in the last few days, I’ve had no less than three people tell me how I’m breaking the hearts of my five female friends by “leading them on” (that’s verbatim, and it’s kind of a long story…). I also get some of this from my family still, like they’re hoping I wake up one day and magically say “I am definitely, totally, 100% hetero.” I’ve tried, I don’t think that’s gonna happen any time soon.

    Some days, the loneliness feels almost crippling. I feel really upset that I’m very likely going to miss out on the whole “having a family” thing. Some days I worry that I will end up having a family, only to be unsteady and unsure with how I feel about my “wife,” that she would always live having doubts about my level of commitment, and that her life would be less than it would have been without me being in it. Days like that, there really isn’t much of a silver lining.

    The other side of the coin is that I like my freedom. I know that I can conceivably pack my bags and head out, across the country, across the world, and start a new life if I would like. I already have plans to do some intense traveling and to live abroad for many years in the future, so I am thankful to a certain degree that I’m not being tied down to any one area, as many of my straight counterparts are.

    I guess there are some advantages. Or at least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

    Reply

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