As you probably know, today is National Coming Out Day.
I’m 41 years old, and I first came out over 20 years ago. I say “first,” because uncloseted gay people are continually coming out. When you meet someone new and likeable, you come out. When you get a new colleague at work, you come out. When your great-aunt Mathilde calls you for the first time in 25 years because there’s a woman she really wants you to meet, you come out again. So, yeah, coming out is a process, and, in some ways, it’s a neverending one. When, in 40 years or so, it’s time for me to enter a retirement community, I’m sure I’ll be coming out again and again.
It’s good to remember, too, that it’s sometimes perfectly ok not to come out. If you’re financially dependent on your fundamentalist parents, this is probably not the right time to come out. If your boss is a homophobic jerk, today may not be the day to come out on the job. You get to decide when, and whether, it’s safe to come out. Although I came out to most people 20 years ago, there were some people who just weren’t ready for the information. So I used my best judgment, telling people when they and I were ready. It worked for me.
I’ve rarely regretted coming out to someone. It’s such a relief not to have to live a lie. Or to feel like you have to segregate important parts of your life from the important people in your life. After you come out to enough people—i.e., when you reach a critical mass—you just don’t have to worry about it much anymore. Suddenly, you realize that your great-aunt Em has called because there’s a man she really wants you to meet. Suddenly, you realize that your own life has been honestly and openly embedded within the lives of your friends and family. That’s a relief.
So if you’re ready and able to do so, come out. It’s a good idea.
Come out, too, if you’re straight but gay-friendly. That helps makes our lives better. Having allies is always good.