So, apparently, yesterday was National Coming Out Day.
I had no idea. I Googled it. I learned that it had been so decreed way back in 1988, on the first anniversary of that huge march on Washington. Why hadn't I heard of it before?
I continued reading the entry to discover this:
"It is highly encouraged for participants in this movement to wear gay pride symbols, such as the pink triangle, the Greek letter lambda, and rainbows, in jewelry and on their clothing, to demonstrate their presence in all walks of life, all ages and all ethnic groups, this contributing to being open, or "coming out", about being queer in every day life."
I wore khakis yesterday. And a short sleeve plaid shirt. So not gay.
It's sort of funny. With my sense of recall , you'd think I could pinpoint the exact day I came out. In fact, I can't. I know the year, and the season, but coming out was something that happened progressively.
Though I'd been sexually active for years prior, I did not come out until I was 18. Not out of any sense of propriety. I'd pretty much run the gamut of all the assorted late '60s/early '70s meet-and-greet places in the past couple of years, and I certainly was not shy. I just never had the opportunity nor the inclination to let anyone I was relating to on a social level know that I was gay.
Like so many others of that time, I had basically spent much of High School denying I was gay, even as I was acting on those desires. It was only in my senior year that I could uncomfortably admit to a crush on George Harrison, and then a bit later, on a man who sort of looked like George Harrison.
It wasn't until I was in college and actually interacting socially, as opposed to sexually, with living, breathing homosexuals that I felt comfortable enough or lonely enough or desperate enough to answer affirmatively when the question of my gayness arose among them. And it was with a huge sense of relief that I answered. The changes were immediate. No longer was I on the outside, judged with suspicion by one side or the other. Admitting I was gay was like jumping into a huge, warm, welcoming pool, much akin to this:
After all, it was the early seventies!
I was to find myself instantly part of a nascent community, seemingly full of people just like me. I was able to discern life patterns among my new found family and realize that there were viable options for me to live the life I wanted the way I wanted to.
Some months later, I was perhaps blinded by some safety-in-numbers notion when I decided it was time to tell my mother the truth as I now knew it. My mother always had her suspicions and was not shy about vocalizing them. I'm she enjoyed the sheer terror her inquisitions caused, but I don't think she was ready for the buoyantly affirmative answer she received that evening. In fact, she suggested I needed help. Perhaps of the electro-shock sort. Or, horror of horrors, aversion therapy. I was too far indoctrinated by that point, and refused her kind offers, much to her chagrin.
Having conquered strangers and my mother, I wisely held off having the same conversation with my father, letting him draw whatever conclusions he might from my arriving at his house in a Gay Activists Alliance t-shirt.
There was a point in my young life when I measured time by how many years I'd been out. I can clearly recall boasting that I'd been out of the closet and proud of it for three, then five, then ten years.
It's been 35 years since those heady days, and it seems I'm now heading out of another door, perhaps the other side of that self-same closet. The world that welcomed me so many years ago is now a distant Arcadian memory, rendered in sepia and sadly faded hues. I'm heading into much colder uncharted waters, with neither map nor guide. Those same desperately anxious emotions I endured prior to coming out are plaguing me again. I'm at least aware of what some of my viable options are, but I'm not sure I like many of them.
Once again, it might be cool if some of the other participants in my new journey could wear some sort of identifiable symbol, to demonstrate their presence in all walks of life, to show me how to navigate this voyage, to surround and support me in the way I've long become accustomed to.