On Coming Back and Coming Out

Hi! It’s been a while. My Middle Daughter, sitting across from me here at the coffee shop, tells me it’s Wednesday, so we’ll put away the “Building Practice vs. Skills” post (sounds like a Monday kind of thing, to me) and instead talk about first, why I’m writing this at all, and then, something about Coming Out day.

I’ve been feeling spread very thin lately. Some of it is my own fault, due to travel to teach at far off places which I agreed to months ago when it seemed like a good idea. Some of it is circumstantial, like a sick grandson. But one thing was for sure: I had too much on my plate. And since I gained a client who would pay me to write on other topics (fulfilling a goal I’ve had for a while, of paying my rent with my writing), I decided that I needed to let go of something.

Well, several things, one of which was this blog. So I abandoned the thrice-weekly posting, reveling in the anticipated relief of having three fewer things per week to worry about. I thought about the hours of free time I would be creating for myself! Think of the things I could get done – writing my book(s), reading that stack of books in my kindle and on my desk, maybe even picking up my guitar more!

Ah, the folly of the overactive mind. Instead I caught up on Sons of Anarchy. I read the “Injustice” comic book arc. I developed an amazing tolerance for that good old “gravy hose”, smoothly paging between Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr with the ease of a true Minority Report devotee.

In short, by stopping this practice of writing, I did not free up any time that was used for anything useful.

But the brain still worked. The thoughts still flowed. I still heard people like Kurt Sutter (who created SOA) and Steven Pressfield saying the same thing Stephen King and Harlan Ellison and even Robert Heinlein always said about writing:

Writer’s write. Not because they want to; because they have to.

So here we go again – once more into the typewriter, dear friends…

Coming Out Day

Did you celebrate it? Or did you have it celebrated upon you? That’s the thing about coming out; like suicide, it’s something that affects you, but more than that, it affects those around you. Sometimes that’s no big deal. Sometimes, though, it can have extreme consequences. Individuals have been disowned, unhomed, beaten and even killed when they’ve come out as…something. Typically people think of it as applying only to homosexual behavior, but that’s a very narrow view. You could come out as being Catholic. You could come out as being Vegan. Or Republican. Basically, “coming out” simply means that you were perceived by someone as something you weren’t. In short, your life was hidden (colloquially “in the closet”). When you “come out” – whether that’s to a person or to several – it means you are aggressively changing their perception of you.

Which means you have to make a choice: are the consequences of you coming out worth it? Is it more important that you be seen for who you are than the perceptive status quo? It’s a hard question, but make no mistake: it’s about you. If people have gotten along ok before this not knowing that particular thing about you, it’s a good bet they could continue that way. “Coming out” is something that’s done because you can no longer stand the status quo, and you need something to change.

I went through a “coming out” a few years back when a close relative looked like they were going to die. At the time I was very happily polyamorous, both my wife and I having other significant relationships with people in other cities that had been going on for years. At the time, it was the intention of all of us that those relationships – the marriage and the long-distance ones – would last throughout our lives.

I found myself uncomfortable with the idea of this person who meant so much to me passing on without knowing that I had this other Very Significant Person in my life. I decided I needed to “come out” as polyamorous – even though most of my immediate family (such as my kids) and my friends and even my employer had known for years. It was important, I thought, that this person know.

It may have been important, but it was also selfish. Because the news was not greeted with any level of acceptance – in fact, I was told directly that this particular life-choice was not supported, and was also incredibly uncomfortable to hear. That wasn’t quite as bad as when I told another relative (on the principle of “If X knows, Y should know as well”) and was told that my marriage was obviously not real, that I was stupid and adulterous and worse. “But what about my wife’s boyfriend?” I remember asking. “Your wife is stupid too!”

Not the happiest coming out tale, but it did teach me a lesson or two. One is that not everybody needs to know everything – there are many things about my life that I keep to myself, not out of any shame, but because being “out” about them would make some people in my life uncomfortable. It’s a simple measure of respect to acknowledge the ways that some people are comfortable with viewing the world. It’s why I won’t have whiskey and cigars after a dinner at my Mormon parents’ house, for example.

At the same time, it also taught me the lesson of being comfortable with my own life. Of being self-confident enough in my own identity, skills, and accomplishments whether or not anyone else either knows about them or approves of them. What I realized, basically, was that as long as I’m out to myself, and accepting and supportive of the things that are important to me, the rest of the world can just carry on its merry way.

However, that really only applies to me because I don’t have any “closeted” identities that are threatened. If the gay community had not begun “coming out” and normalizing for our culture the identity that was already totally prevalent in nature, we would be much worse off as a nation than we are today. Of course, there are still holdouts – the Middle East and Russia come to mind. Thankfully, we don’t model our culture after them – instead, we start from “everybody is created equal” and work from there, and if we stumble, in the end we usually end up in a better place than we started.

So while I can’t come out as gay (sorry, but I love zee womenz too mush!) I can at least be a staunch ally, and when someone does come out, I can acknowledge: This is important to you. I can be a witness and an advocate for everyone to come out to whoever they feel most needs to know their true self – and I can also help the newly-aware person deal with the sudden change of perspective. Believe me, that can be hard

Coming Out Day has come and gone – you’ll have to wait until the next October 11 to celebrate it. But I hope you do (it’s far better than celebrating Columbus Day – lord, what an awful heritage that commemorates!). And I hope that the first person you “come out” to is yourself. Because if there’s one person who needs and deserves to be aware of your true self – it’s that person in the mirror.

Good to be back! Next post from Atlanta, GA. See you Friday!

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