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Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

I want you all to give a big, internet-style hug to my pal steve, who recently had The Talk and came out to his folks. I’m glad to hear that things haven't been as rocky as they first seemed after Steve dropped the bombshell, and I hope they continue to go well.

I was pretty worried when I first read that Steve had made the announcement and that his folks seemed upset, because I have been one of the people encouraging him to tell them, and I hoped I hadn't made a huge mistake. A lot of the advice I ever give on the subject of coming out always draws from my own experience, which was pretty good, and from the reaction of my parents, who love their kids enough to get used to almost any new idea, it seems. There was this fear, though, that I hadn't been a sterling example of the benefits of coming out to your parents and friends, but rather that I was just meddling in the life of someone I liked chatting with but just didn't understand at all.

Those worries aside, I still believe it's better to come out than not. Even if the process is fraught with anxiety, in the end I think it's better to give people the chance to know you in a more complete way. When I came out to my folks (and basically everyone else at around the same time), it was just the first step in a larger effort to have them get to know me, and to get to know them — an effort to relate to my parents as friends and people I respected. It was good for all of us. Certainly it was good for me to be more open about the person I was with my folks, my other relatives, and with all my friends, and the world at large. It was good for them, too, because once they had a chance to think about it, to think about how being gay fit into a larger context of who I was, then they realized it wasn't a tragedy, it was just another detail. It wasn't some terrible thing that happened to other people's kids — it was just another way to go about living one's life.

that’s the value of coming out that I don't see people talking about as much: the benefits for the people you tell. When you come out to the people you know, you give them a chance to reconsider how they have felt about relating to someone who's gay. You give them a chance to grow a little, and to develop a fuller understanding not only of you, but of other people in the world. Yeah, it may suck if your mom breaks into tears right away or your dad gets all stony, but what happens later? that’s the important thing: What happens after you've given people a chance to really look at their preconceived notions and decide whether or not they're valid? You give people one of hopefully many opportunities to develop a fuller, more open-minded understanding of how the world works, and of how people can live their lives. I think that’s good, even if the short-term results aren't so spectacular. When someone really freaks about you're being gay, it's not only a tragedy for you, but also for that person: that’s someone whose mind has been locked down, who won't let in a new idea, or who won't care enough to let you choose your own path in life.

Granted, I have a pretty obvious bias on this subject, but can you blame me? I know lots of incredible people who like a little man-man or gal-gal lovin'. And I bet each of us has, at some pooint or another, made that light bulb appear over someone else's head that siginifies, "Hey, it ain't such a big thing after all, is it?"

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