Coming out is a personal decision, and each person has to find the right time and the right way for themselves. And while it can still be tough, it doesn’t have to be as tough as it used to be
Coming out is still so very hard to do, especially if someone delays doing it for a very long time.
That’s what I learned recently when the 40-something-year-old son of a friend of mine confided to me that he had finally accepted his sexual orientation and now had a boyfriend. He broke the news to me by saying, “I’m involved in a new relationship with someone, and his name is … .”
The ironic part of all this is that my friend, his mother, told me when her son was about 13 years old that she was pretty sure he would be gay. She was an interior decorator, had lived in liberal cities prior to moving to Texas and had quite a few gay and lesbian friends.
I thought that she might be correct in her assessment.
Despite my friend’s worldliness and acceptance of her friends’ homosexuality, she expressed a concern that her son’s life would be much tougher if he indeed turned out to be gay.
We had this conversation about 20 years ago, so her assessment seemed reasonable enough at the time. I had to agree that being gay certainly hadn’t made my life any easier up to that point, especially in light of the raging AIDS epidemic that was killing many of my friends and scaring me to death.
As it turned out, her fears about him being gay seemed to be unfounded. He went off to college, met a girl, lived with her, left her and wound up marrying another girl.
Two of his best friends from high school with whom he grew up went on to come out and live as openly gay. One died of AIDS in the early 1990s.
My friend and I remarked on our surprise about how things had turned out, but we both generally acknowledged that we apparently had been incorrect in our assumptions that he would be gay.
Still, I had this nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right. I wondered if he was bisexual.
My friend’s son and his wife had a child, and they moved away from Texas to the West Coast and a much more liberal environment. They seemed happy for a long time, but then my friend began to confide that her son was having emotional problems. In fact, he had become estranged from other members of his family after a conflict with them before he left Texas.
Finally, I heard that he and his wife had separated, then gotten divorced.
At the same time, my friend and I began drifting apart, even though we had been friends for a quarter-century. I noticed her politics were becoming more conservative. She told me that she didn’t think the country was ready for same-sex couples enjoying the right to become married.
I began to realize that her liberal attitudes were only skin deep, and I was disappointed by that.
When my friend’s son told me that he was gay, I promised not to say anything about it to anyone until he had charted his course of action. I did advise him that if he planned to tell his teenage son that I thought he should first tell his ex-wife, who had become his best friend after their divorce.
He also confided to me that when he was a teenager he had fooled around with one of his male friends, and that he had felt guilt and shame afterwards. He told me that after he accepted his homosexuality and began dating other men, it felt natural for him.
After a couple of months, he told his ex-wife. She took the news excellently, telling him that she wanted him to be happy. His son seemed to take it in stride while posing a lot of questions.
The funniest question he got from his son was, “Are you going to start wearing dresses now?”
Then he called his mother and told her, and she admitted that she had known it all of his life. She also began weeping and told him she was concerned that it would make his life much harder.
In an email to me, she said that she was not shocked by his revelation, but it did make her sad. She also expressed surprise that he had told his son.
I’ve always been of the opinion that people come out when it is the best time for them to do so. His personal time table required him to wait about 20 years longer than I did, but that was right for him. He adores his son, enjoys his close friendship with his ex-wife and hopefully will have a good relationship with another man to round out his life.
In short, I’m hoping he proves his mother wrong. It doesn’t have to make life tougher in this day and age.
David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.