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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

When you’re gay, life is often classified into two periods: being in the closet and being “out”. That being said, the account of how each gay individual makes this transition has subsequently been dubbed “the coming out story.” Every LGBT person has one; they’re all different. W is the purpose of these stories? For the individuals themselves, of course, but it seems that lately there has been a dramatization and almost romanticism of the coming out story, mostly for the enjoyment of those not within the LGBT community.
What I’ve found in my short gay life is two things. One, that most young, straight, progressive people just really love the gays. And two, Americans just really love a good underdog. They love a good coming out story, especially if it involves being thrown out on the streets by your ultra-conservative parents or being violently ripped away from your first love at an all-girls Christian boarding school. The question that everyone wants to know once you come out is “How did your parents take it?” and I have to admit that sometimes I feel like I’m letting the whole heterosexual community down when I am forced to admit that nothing even mildly dramatic occurred after my emergence from “the closet.”
However it sometimes feels like the storytelling itself is a little less about an opportunity to get out your queer narrative and a little more about creating a platform for the listener to prove their own liberalism. Seems to me that coming out is often the equivalent to a violent Black Friday sale, with people clambering over one another to voice their acceptance of your “situation”. I remember attending a New Year’s Eve party freshman year over Christmas break with my first girlfriend. The attendees were mostly people we had gone to high school with, a time when we had both chosen to keep our relationship under wraps. However since we had gone off to our respective universities, we had began the gradual process of coming out and once we went official on facebook, the shit kind of hit the fan back home.
One girl in particular looked to be especially shocked by this real world proof that two of her former female classmates were now dating each other. She stood in the corner at the far end of the room, jaw dropped and eyes bulging. Much later she caught me en route to the kitchen to get another drink. She grabbed my arm, pinning me against the doorway.
“You guys are so cute,” she slurred, spilling some of her Keystone Light onto my converse. “I’m so happy for you.” I nodded and smiled, trying in vain to convince her that she had done her civic duty and could now return to this party and start her New Year feeling like a progressive member of society. She reached out and grabbed one of her friends out of cluster of people and waved her hand frantically in my direction. “Oh my god. Allie, how cute are they?” Allie nodded quickly, locking eyes with me.
“So cute.”
I felt awkward, as if I should also be validating the relationship she seemed to be starting with the roided out frat boy whose lap she had been sitting on, but somehow it seemed highly inappropriate. I again smiled and nodded, trying to make a quick escape before more Laurens and Ashleys and Shannons were added to the conversation, all to confirm that my relationship was not at all unnatural or sick or perverted.
It’s a similar story nowadays, whenever I meet someone new and they spot the tiny rainbow ribbon on my backpack I can see the fire in their eyes, waiting for me to stop speaking so they can vehemently bash Prop 8 and tell me that their mother’s secretary’s neighbor is gay and that maybe I know her?
I don’t mean to complain so much, really.
The mantra my gay elders have wisely gifted me with is that “coming out is a daily experience.” Heteronormativity is like an untamed beast in society, creeping up on the daily and reminding queer people that they are not the majority, not "the norm." Although the validation upon outing oneself may be warranted in some situations, in many it just seems to exacerbate the gap between straight and gay. And while I appreciate the support, I just really long for a day when I can tell a new friend that yes, I would like to make out with Rachel Maddow and not to have to sit through a subsequent awkward story of how she went through a gay phase one night at a Sigma Chi party.



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