November 5, 2011

Coming Out To Everyone

I feel overexposed.

This is a feeling that's been bugging me for quite some time now, and it's entirely my fault.

I never really "went public" in high school. Most of my friends knew I was gay, but I was still extremely private with it, and struggled intensely with saying "I'm gay," even to myself. So, I decided that in college that was all going to change. My method for changing this? Come out to everything.

In retrospect, this might not have been the best decision.

Upon arriving on campus, I quickly immersed myself in the LGBT center, Blue Devils United, and this blog. These, especially writing for the blog, garnered me an enormous amount of overexposure. The day my first post hit this blog, everyone, and I do mean everyone, seemed to know I was gay. Granted, I saw this coming, but I thought it was what I wanted.

I'm fine coming out to the LGBT community, it's only when my sexuality begins to spill over into areas of my "straight" life that I have an issue, and before I knew what was happening, people started finding my blog post from all areas of my "straight" life.

I managed to make it okay with myself by saying that this would make my life easier. Being gay in Christian communities is a tricky business, and by having my sexuality already out in the open, it wouldn't come out of nowhere to bite me later. And this made it easy for me to be known as the "gay Christian" role model that I wanted to be.

But I still felt exposed. My business was all over the place. Suddenly, my "straight" life and my "gay" life that I'd worked so hard to preserve were all blended up together. This was what I had hoped would happen, but now I found myself just hoping that I could resegregate my life.

I feel like this is what happens to lots of LGBT people after they start coming out. Coming out is necessary, because your sexuality is a core part of your identity that you shouldn't have to hide, and it can be an extremely liberating experience. But at the same time, when you consider coming out, you're feeling pressured to share intimate details of your sex life to people for no reason, and it's easy to start feeling as though your privacy is being infringed on, even though you're the one doing the infringing. And then there's the added pressure of the knowledge "once you come out, there's no going back," and on top of all that is the decision of who to come out to.

All of these pressures are intensely individualistic. Some people are comfortable enough with their sexuality that they have no problem coming out to everyone, others, like me (as I learned the hard way), are a little more private. After all, coming out to everyone isn't at all necessary, and your sexuality isn't any of most people's business. Of course if coming out to everyone isn't your cup of tea, it can be very tempting to try and segregate your life into "straight" and "gay" spheres, and that is something you absolutely cannot do.

No matter when you decide to come out, and who you decide to come out to, the most important thing is that you take yourself seriously. Don't hide an important part of who you are just because you happen to be in one of your "straight" spheres, and if that means having to come out in that sphere, then so be it. If you're forcing yourself to hide who you are, from anyone, then there was no point in you coming out at all.


  1. Jonathan,

    My first instinct that I'm sorry you feel overexposed. My other feeling though is that it seems like you're expressing tension over the mixing of possible identities, ways of coming out, etc. I guess I might sort of say this-do you think it is something you might be able to learn to navigate with time?

    I think coming out is too personal to set up rules of what to do or not do with it-every method, decision, or un-coming out is valid because it's individually motivated based on individual needs. What do you think your needs are? Do you think you can learn to navigate more of coming out and establish a happy medium over time?

    Hope it all works out for you, and see you around soon,

  2. Loved this post for its sincerity. I envy your new found freedom to love openly, live honestly, and most importantly, to seek community. Remember how lonely it gets to have absolutely no one else to confide in, no open arms to return to, no network for support in preponderent times, and how being silent hurts so much? Consider too how Duke is a relatively nice place to come out at compared to several other colleges. For now, just treat the response of those in your circles as an adaptive mechanism to the real, beautiful you. Sure, it takes time, but when things settle, you’ll know who’s worthy of your friendship. On rational grounds, someone who declines you as a friend on grounds of your sexuality is not worth your time, effort, and energy. Being out to a wonderful community, you now have a fair idea of who and where to look to for love. Btw, your introspective reticence is really alluring... =) Stay strong! xoxo

  3. "Coming out is necessary, because your sexuality is a core part of your identity"
    You may think this, but you should also realize that for some people in our community, this is entirely false. Sexuality can be just another in a long list of identifiers.

    I am sorry that you feel overexposed, but when you say you need to "take yourself seriously" when you come out, maybe you should take some time to thoroughly analyze how important of an identifier sexuality is to you. If your "straight life" and "gay life" are merging, and you aren't ok with it, its my best guess that sexuality shouldn't be as important as an identifier to you.