ESSENTIALS | OCTOBER | 2018
We sincerely hope that you’re enjoying October’s Out issue. This month’s round of uploads was carefully crafted with you in mind and, as always, we have done our absolute best to give you all something to think about while you’re reading this during your morning commute to work or school or just lounging on the couch surfing the net at home.
The topic of coming out has almost always been a challenge for all of us, as we know the pitfalls that can come with it. But even before we experience the potential pitfalls and challenges of coming out, we often tend to badger ourselves with a laundry list of questions that we don’t have the answers to. Who do we come out to and why is this something that we have to do? Should we tell our coworkers or classmates or shouldn’t we? When is the right time and what are the right words? We wonder whether or not we’ll gain an ally or an enemy, if our relationships with our friends will continue or if our coming out spells the end. Any of us who’ve come out can not only attest to the struggle of answering these questions, but to the anxiety and stress of trying to ‘act normal’ while they float about our uncertain minds.
Who we do and don’t come out to has everything to do with us and nothing to do with anyone else. We wish that there was a concrete answer to who you should and shouldn’t come out to, but outside of coming out to your wife of x amount of years, we don’t have a single suggestion to offer that would guarantee the process will be smooth. However, what we can offer are a few considerations that you can utilize at your own discretion.
ORDER OF OPERATION
PEMDAS, or Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally is an acronym for the words parenthesis, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction. Anyone who has ever taken a course in algebra can tell you that the acronym can serve as a guide to almost any algebraic equation you might face as it tells you where to begin and where to end. While there is no earthly way we can apply PEMDAS to anything outside of math, we can tell you that there is an order of operation you can consider when coming out.
The suggestion here is to start your journey of coming out with the person in your life who is the least important to you. Now before you go throwing tomatoes, let us be clear in stating that we know everyone in your life is important, but we also know that everyone in your life doesn’t hold the same level of importance. Such, when you rank your relationship with your parents to your relationship with Joel who you just met last Thursday on a layover at LAX, which relationship do you think will rank higher? See what we did there? Beginning your journey with someone you’re not deeply attached to will lessen the sting you’ll experience in the event that they reject you.
WHO AND WHY?
The answer to the question of who you should and shouldn’t come out to depends on your own personal preference. Your sexual attraction to members of the same sex isn’t something you are obligated to announce and, like anything else about you, should be treated as privileged information. Sexuality is not a predictor of character or ability and shouldn’t be treated as though it is. Sure, there may be people that you’re excited to share this information with and that is what it is, but none of us are obligated to share it with anyone who, again, isn’t your wife of x amount of years. The coming out process is and always will be a personal choice should be made by you and for you. Yes, people will try to encourage you to do so and list all of these amazing benefits to doing so, but if you’re not feeling it then don’t.
WHEN AND HOW?
In the event that you’ve made the decision to come out and have decided who you either will or will not come out to, the next thing is deciding on what to say. Again, there is no perfect answer but there are always things to consider, the most important of these considerations is your audience.
Every month we work to carefully craft our pieces to a specific audience. We know who we’re dealing with and have a pretty good idea of the topics that our audience of SGL gentlemen of color, are interested in. We know our audience, or at least we like to think that we do. The same knowledge is essential when coming out. Is your audience conservative Christians or are they of the liberal and spiritual breed? Knowing your audience can give you some insight on how they may or may not react to your big news and allows you to make some predictions about how they may or may not react. With this knowledge you’ll be able to assess whether or not you should tell them and if so, what to say when you do. Not knowing your audience, especially when it comes to sharing something of this nature, can be as disastrous as asserting the greatness of Barack Obama at a Trump rally, which, in case you were wondering, wouldn’t be the brightest of ideas.
WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT?
With regard to knowing what to expect, well, it depends on your audience and how you tailor your message to them. While knowing the crowd gives you a slight advantage, you still can’t be too sure of how they’ll react. We do our best to keep things positive, but when it comes to this, we recommend that you not only expect the absolute worst but that you also have thought of ways in which you’ll digest a negative reaction. Call is pessimistic if you must, but if the results are more favorable than you expected, you won’t be disappointed.
STRESS AND ANXIETY.
The stress and anxiety associated with coming out is real. There’s a lot of baggage that comes with doing so and packing light isn’t always an option. Many of us know what it's like to experience the fear of rejection or ostracization, of being excluded. There are some pretty universal ways to manage these feelings.
Exercise, prayer and meditation are the go-to’s for anyone dealing with stress and anxiety, so it should come as no surprise that these things are our first recommendations. There’s nothing like a really, REALLY good run or go at the gym to take your mind off of or away from the stress of coming out. Prayer and meditation help as well because they allow us to communicate with whomever our higher power may be and to reach down within ourselves to find a reassurance that may otherwise go unrecognized externally. Sleep is always a quick escape, but we shouldn’t rely on this too heavily because it doesn’t help us deal with the stress, it just makes it disappear for an hour or two...or six. The best recommendation we have for managing this stress is to do whatever it is that makes you feel good while allowing you the opportunity to map out an escape from the root of the stress and anxiety you’re feeling.
Whether you decide to come out on National Coming Out day, or any other day, our hope is that the decision is based off of your feeling the need to do so. With respect to the whos, the whats, the whens and wheres, its totally based off of a knowledge that you already have. Deep down, you know the ways that your family and friends view the SGL community, and in the event that you don’t, coming out will certainly show you. However, you can never be too certain, and must always be prepared for the “I’m fine with it as long as its not in my house” response. Also, don’t worry about the timing because you will fell when its right. Go at your own pace and whatever you do, make sure you’re prepared for the positive and the negative outcomes as well. Apprehension is a normal part of life. As children, many of us were apprehensive about the first day of school just as we, as adults, are apprehensive about the first day at a new job or on a first date. The goal is to find a way to navigate through this uncertainty as productively as possible. There are very few of us that can attest to experiencing a smooth transition in coming out, but times are certainly changing and with that comes the hope that those of us who are still in will be granted safe passage as we work to bring whats inside, out.
Remember this always,