Coming Out: Isn’t Once Enough?
By Kristin Wygal
Moments of clarity do not visit me nearly as often as I would like to think they do. More often than not, I feel like a neglected relative, relegated to inconsistent holiday visits and the obligatory birthday call. That is why, when I finally recognized that I was into women, waves of relief took over; mainly because I did not have to deal with the internal questioning anymore. It suffices to say I was a bit naïve for feeling like all I had to do was come out to myself and then the world would follow. Like somehow, I would begin to exude a gay vibe that would be obvious to everyone therefore eliminating the need to mention it ever again. I was disheartened when the reality set in that it did not quite work that way. Coming out as a lesbian would be something I would have to do for the rest of my life.
It has now been over a decade since I first came out, yet I still find myself correcting assumptions nearly everyday. The upside to this lifelong task is that the pressure has eased with time. Coming out nowadays is more matter-of-fact rather than the definitive revelation of ten years ago. I have learned the art of timing, something I had not quite grasped when coming out to my parents. Granted, my mother did not give me much of a chance in that particular arena as she bluntly asked me if I was gay during a phone conversation one evening. All I could do was try to make my affirmative response louder than the sound of my jaw dropping. Now, I simply weave it into conversation if necessary or politely correct anyone who, when I say I am married, assumes I said, “I do,” to a man.
Although coming out does not hold the same weighty significance for me that it once did, it can still feel heavy to those hearing it for the first time. One problem for me is that I am impatient. I want people to be accepting and comfortable immediately. Some individuals are unaffected; some need five minutes, others, twenty years. While it is difficult to have people react awkwardly, I am not wholly callous and am usually willing to allow some time for process. Thinking back on how long it took me to accept myself as a lesbian, I can understand how some might need to have a moment with the concept. It can be a challenge, especially to those that have not been faced with someone being open and comfortable with their sexuality before that moment.
There are, of course, situations that are given more to divulging personal information than others. For example, I am not going to enter a formal meeting and start talking about my wife nor would I enter that same meeting and begin discussing my husband. However, in more casual environments I do not change her title to “partner” for the benefit of others. I call her my wife. She calls me her wife. She is my mother’s daughter-in-law. Why should she become my non-gender-specific-partner to others? Granted many people are more comfortable not divulging any details of their personal life. For me, not coming out is exhausting. The constant censorship and jumping around pronouns is enough to make me collapse at the end of each day. While self-preservation may be the reason some people choose not to disclose information about themselves, it is the very reason I do come out. It is about being honest to myself. Ultimately, I am simply choosing to not participate in the antiquated song and dance around reality.