I can tell you, but sometimes I don’t tell people.
On occasions, I hide in plain sight and I say nothing. I don’t tell everyone hey, hey, hey, I’m gay. Sometimes my silence is a conscious choice and at other times it’s not.
A few months ago, I noticed it for the first time as an openly gay man.
But I’m sure that wasn’t the first time it’s happened.
Ding-dong. A pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses stood outside my door. We chatted and then they asked if it was my last name on the mailbox.
I said, “Yes.” But the truth is no, it’s not. My partner and I were staying at his mom’s house and his last name is on the mailbox.
What I should’ve said was, “No, it’s my partner’s last name.”
After I closed the door on my visitors, I wondered how they would’ve reacted, or not, to my big reveal.
There was another time I choked on coming out.
A month ago, I was in our new house to wait for carpet installers. When they arrived, I noticed they were speaking Spanish and so I joined in with small talk.
Well, they asked me in Spanish about the house and if I lived there with my girlfriend. And, I let it slip and slide in Spanish. I didn’t bother to correct them about my partner’s gender. And although, it should be easy for me to set and say my orientation in Spanish, it was like an extra layer of work.
Must I tell everyone I’m gay? And, do I need to correct people if they misstate my orientation?
Well, I feel like I fail when I don’t ace those pop-up quizzes. I know these small interactions are important to change people. Every single one can count and add up to change for someone. So, guilt hits me and sinks me. To pull myself up, I reach for the reasons I didn’t confess my gay. To absolve my guilt, I vow to show and tell my gayness the next time.
Now, hello, most people “can tell” with me. But, the bad feelings come if I don’t tell. A part of me says there’s no need to announce, enunciate, or clarify myself each time.
But, I used to look down on people who lived in a closet. Now myself, I would never out someone, ever. Instead, I would cut my eyes at them from the inside out and back.
I’ve always seen the closet as counterproductive to the movement. I had no respect for Hollywood celebrities who hide in closets. I had no salutes for soldiers who stayed still and silent.
My problem was only seeing “coming out” as a big to-do rather than just being you.
Still, I don’t like how being gay requires repeated exposures and daily disclosures. The small closets in everyday conversations can be cumbersome. And the need to correct every wrong word can sap a spirit. I blame the assumptions people make for those feelings.
And one gay professor, Matthew H. Birkhold, believes we should end National Coming Out Day. He writes for the Washington Post how, “coming out” reinforces heterosexuality as the norm.
Myself, I have a gay dream that one day society won’t make assumptions about sexual orientation.
And, let me tell you, the names and titles are important too. I don’t accept euphemisms and substitutions for my partner.
He’s my boyfriend or my partner, and not my “friend.” I can’t stand when older generations refer to my partner as ‘his friend’ or ‘your friend.’ It feels like a downgrade and a downplay that isn’t acceptable. I try to correct people who say that, but sometimes the moments get away from me.
There are situations where I don’t have time to communicate.
I think of it like driving. I’m out on life’s highways and sometimes I speed. If there’s a shortcut, I might take it to get by faster. When I’m in a hurry, I don’t always use my turn signals. I just keep it moving.
Or, this is like when your name gets butchered in your eyes or in your ears. Sometimes you might correct the error, and at other times you let it go. That’s what I do with my orientation sometimes.
The unscheduled coming out experiences can be inconvenient and inefficient.
I heard a cop say to a stopped driver, “When you go fishing, do you catch all the fish in the water?”
Well, in case you hadn’t noticed, this Black gay man has more than one identity to serve and protect. Some people have smaller jurisdictions and it’s easier for them to patrol everywhere all the time. But these legs are spread across a few areas. And, I don’t always feel like working twice as hard.
So, yes, you will catch me bent over and buried in a box a vegan donuts as I smack my lips and sip hot coffee. I’m on break so I don’t have a breakdown. Even a written warning will waste my time. And, I sure as hell can’t read everyone their rights. So, excuse me when I’m unavailable for off-duty arrests.
I just can’t avenge every slight. Is there something wrong with that?
And hey, I’m open to the possibility I’m still unraveling layers of homophobia. A person can be out for decades and still have years of work to do. And, if so, that’s okay too. All aspects of my identity continue to evolve.
It’s also okay to choke here and there. My life is a battle, it’s not a contest, so misfires will happen. And every now and then, my tongue will bleed from bite marks. But trust me, they will heal.
I can hear someone saying, “silence is consent!”
Okay, sure, but silence also says I don’t care. I don’t care enough to correct the record or think twice about what people think of me. It’s my choice to open wide my mouth and say, ‘Aah.’
So, the more I think about it, I’m okay with not always coming out to people. In the future, if I’m silent on the subject I’m going to hold my peace. It’s my gay guilt that must get going.
This is more about my decision to let people in or not. Because, I don’t have to tell everyone. I’m already out, it’s their problem if they don’t see me.