I know I'm lucky, and putting this story down on paper has shown me how lucky I really have been. I have friends and family that were not only un-phased by my coming out, they were incredibly supportive. In addition, I have worked in an industry where being out hasn't been an issue at all.
That being said, I still see coming out as a journey, and that journey didn't stop with my mother or even the rest of the family. It is something I challenge myself to do everyday.
My father was next on the list. I was the most worried about him. I have no idea why. I mean in junior high and high school I defended him constantly. "No, just because my dad moved to Laguna Beach and then San Francisco after my parents divorced, he is not, in fact, gay."
Anyway, he came to visit me in DC in the apartment I had picked out for my partner and I to move in together for the first time. He knew that there would be two of us living there, I had talked about my upcoming "roomie." What he didn't know was that it was a one bedroom apartment.
I met he and my stepmother at dinner and caved under the pressure and didn't say anything.
We went back to the apartment so that he could do his usual list of things to fix - his version of relaxation is tinkering around a house.
I gave them the tour of the apartment and then basically just blurted out - "there is only one bedroom for two of us - both guys - I think the math is pretty easy."
His only concern was that I was going to become more like Jack from Will and Grace. I assured him that I had no plans on changing who I was, simply that I planned to live my life honestly. I guess he was cool with that answer because he just went back to making a list of things to do. We then headed to Lowe's and got to work....
That conversation gave me some food for thought. Clearly, at least in my Dad's mind, I did not present myself as the effeminate male that many people stereotype. He basically confirmed for me that I could "pass."
I have to admit, that gave me a feeling of safety. I didn't have to be gay all the time if I didn't want to be. I could just hide sometimes if it made things easier.
After I went to work for HRC, I saw the danger in maintaining that position and I challenged myself to live out as much as I could. Do I still "pass" now and again? Yes. I'm not perfect, and sometimes I am just too tired to fight the fight at that moment.
However, I think it is important for everyone to think about ways that they can continue to come out. I know that my situation of support and kindness from my family and co-workers affords me this luxury. I know that everyone isn't in the same boat. However, I think that everyone may have the opportunity to push the boundary a little further than they have.
One of my favorite times happened about a year ago. 19 of my friends, all bears - one who competes in the Highland Games and is big enough to throw trees for fun - all went on a cruise together. The rest of the passengers spent hours trying to figure out what our group was - firefighters, EMTs, rugby players, football team, Secret Service, etc. It was highly humorous.
One night 12 of us were sitting in the bar on the pool deck hanging out. I was eavesdropping on a couple next to us - the man clearly trying to pick up the woman. They talked for awhile till another man walked by. The woman clearly cruised him and even commented that he had a nice ass. "As long as it's only an outlet," says the man sitting next to her.
"You know," I said. "if you are going to be a bigot, you might make sure that the 12 other guys sitting in the bar aren't gay."
He surveyed the group, one of whom even waved, and realized that he was a tad outnumbered, and clearly hadn't picked up on the fact that this group could be 12 gay men. He stammered out a few sad attempts to rationalize his comments while the woman next to him smiled at how uncomfortable he was.
He slunk off to some other locale and the woman raised a glass to us.
Not every time I come out again is this dramatic - sometimes it's just correcting the airline reservation person when they ask will my wife be traveling as well. It is about making sure that all the bills that come to the house are in both names and that both people can make changes to the accounts, etc. It is about having both names on our checks. It runs the gamut from simple to maybe a little confrontational.
As another Coming Out Day passes us by, I would ask, why do we only look to do it on one day?