Come out come out wherever you are…
Out and proud, or at the very back of the closet? Most likely you are somewhere in between these two extremes. For many people in our community coming out presents one of the biggest issues in LGBTIQ+ lifestyle. Usually the people who are closest to us are the ones we are most concerned about – what will our families think, what about my best friend? But what you discover after taking the most important step – telling our nearest and dearest – is that coming out is never over. Right, parents dealt with, aunt Mary dealt with, now just the rest of the world to go! Don’t worry – as a friend of mine said, it gets easier after the first two or three hundred times.
When the society assumes everyone straight, correcting that assumption can prove challenging. You will always meet new people who don’t know: new colleagues, acquaintances, people you meet through hobbies or while travelling and sooner or later you will find yourself in the situation when you have to decide whether or not to come out to them.
You might think it’s easy just not mentioning anything but questions about one’s relationship come up easily in normal conversations. When a lesbian in a committed relationship is asked whether she has a boyfriend - how to answer this truthfully without coming out? If she says no, she doesn’t have a boyfriend, this is obviously true but it sends out the wrong message as then the assumption is that she is single. She could say she has a partner but in English language it’s hard to play with the pronouns without revealing the gender of your partner.
Why is this even an issue? Straight people will not think twice mentioning their husbands or wives to new acquaintances – why would they? Obviously there is nothing wrong with having a husband or having a partner. It becomes tricky when the person you are talking to will automatically assume your partner is of the opposite sex and you face the dilemma of whether or not to correct them. I face this all the time, being as I am a rather feminine lesbian – in other words I don’t “look like a lesbian”, as people tend to put it. What exactly is a lesbian supposed to look like is beside the point.
Generally people assume I am straight and when mentioning I’m married they will invariably ask questions like “what does your husband do?” “what’s his name?” etc. I normally correct them straight away and I have gotten a reasonable amount of practise. No need to go all “sit-down-I-have-something-to-tell-you-please-accept-me”. I have become very accustomed to correcting mildly “my wife…” or “her name is..” with a slight smile. Boom, there is it. Coming out completed and the person I am talking to does not need to have a reaction of any kind, no need for awkwardness. They don’t have to react anyhow more than I do when they mention something about their partners.
Funnily enough, people often seem to feel the need to assure me that it’s all right, there is no problem and proceed to tell me about all the gay people they know who are invariably are all nice people, there is absolutely no problem with that! To which I would usually smile sweetly saying “I didn’t expect there to be a problem”.
Then again, there are situations where I have found silence to be golden. As it turns out, revealing that I only like women does little to deter certain Drunken Straight Guys from making advances. In fact, it seems that the sentence “I’m a lesbian” translates into “I would like to have a threesome with you and my gorgeous girlfriend. Actually, any woman will do as long as they are hot. Us lesbians are not that picky. Especially when it comes to men.” Sometimes it’s just easier to hold your peace, no matter how out and proud you are.
Obviously it is not always that easy. In ideal world no queer person would face any problems being completely out but unfortunately the world we live in is far from ideal. People might feel that coming out at work would have a negative effect on their career or the relations with their colleagues. They may fear rejection from family members, social isolation, even physical violence. There can be a number of very varied other reasons that make them feel they need to stay in their closets.
This is a very personal choice and I feel fortunate that I have been able to lead a life outside the closet without any major problems. It’s part of being yourself, and being comfortable with that. The more people feel able to do so, the better place this world is for not only people of our community but everybody.
Marjo Johanna Granat loves writing, travelling and writing about travelling - hence travel blogging. Other passions include coffee, vegetarian/vegan cooking (and eating!) and wine. Apart from writing, Marjo enjoys anything outdoorsy, be it hiking, rock-climbing or kayaking with her wife. At the moment she calls Malta home but she is always on the lookout for the next adventure.
Marjo also runs a bi-lingual blog in English and Finnish about her life in Malta as well as her travels: www.sillavalinmaailmalla.blogspot.com.