Coming out of the closet is usually an uncomfortable situation all around. That is every bit as true for the person hearing the news as it is for the one breaking it. Every gay person knows that it is often very difficult to come out to your straight friends for the first time; those of us who have done so know that it is nearly always impossible to anticipate what the reaction will be. But more often than not, the reaction is likely to be negative.
Although positive reactions are not completely out of the question, they are rare. And sometimes, even when the initial reaction is negative, friends and family will usually come around after they have had time to adjust to the shock of the news. You should not expect miracles right away, however; if they do come around, it won’t happen overnight. Remember, that the journey your loved ones must make to reach acceptance is every bit as difficult for them as the one that led you to coming out in the first place, so a little patience would serve you well.
I don’t know if the experience is the same for lesbians, but speaking from a male perspective, the already awkward moment of sharing your secret becomes even worse, because straight males seem to have a tendency to jump to the wrong conclusion. They immediately become uncomfortable and defensive, because they assume that they are being pursued by their gay friend; why else would they be admitting that they’re gay?
I have seen this happen so many times. It even happened to me. When I told my best friend that I was gay, he said that was fine by him, and it wouldn’t change our friendship…as long as I wasn’t hitting on him or anything. I assured him that I wasn’t. But considering that he had known me better than almost anyone else on earth for the last twenty years, I was surprised that he even felt the need to say that to me.
Most straight guys seem to have that kind of reaction. For some reason, they appear to feel very threatened by the revelation that a friend is gay. As a result they feel the need to make it clear where they stand by making statements like my friend did, or by quickly pointing out that they are not gay. That being the case, I’m sure you can see why this is one myth that I would like to dispel right here and now.
I can’t figure out for the life of me why straight guys always seem to jump to this conclusion. I mean, are straight guys really that insecure…or worse yet, that egotistical? OK, so I admit, there could be an extremely slight possibility that it might be true in some cases. In my experience, however, such cases have been so rare that they are almost non-existent; ninety-nine percent of the time this is not the case.
It has always blown my mind how the simple statement that one is gay can so drastically change the way that people see you. Why do they often come to view you so differently that they feel you are no longer the same person that they have known for years? I mean, sure, finding out that someone you know is gay can be a surprising secret sometimes, but we all have those. Tell the truth, folks, we all have a few skeletons in the closet. In fact, some of us have enough of them to make a cemetery!
I have to say that as awful as the feeling can sometimes be, I do find this misunderstanding to be a little humorous. I say this because I have also noticed that usually after you have reassured someone that this is not the case, there is one tiny, split second before the relief shows on their face when they almost seem insulted that you were not pursuing them. You have to watch closely to see it, and it is usually gone as quickly as it came, but if you are observant, you will see that in this brief moment, they give you that look that almost seems to say: “What’s wrong with me that you wouldn’t pursue me?” I have always found that odd.
For the record, I would like to explain things from a gay man’s point of view. The way that we see it, coming out to someone is not an attempt to gain their interest romantically. It is merely an attempt by us to be honest about who we are and how we feel. The dishonesty of allowing others to believe that you are straight when you really aren’t is just miserable; it makes you feel like the worst kind of liar! Sharing the truth about our orientation is an attempt to gain the acceptance of our friends and loved ones for who we really are. This does not always happen, of course, but it is always our hope that our friends and loved ones will understand that just because we are gay does not mean that we are different; we are still the same people that they have known and cared about for years. As I have stated many times in the past, sexual orientation does not change one’s values, nor the content of their character!
It is my hope that those of you who read this will keep these words in mind and remember them if a friend or loved one ever comes to you and wants to share this information. Try to remember that the coming out process is already difficult enough as it is without having to worry about whether you friends will jump to the wrong conclusions!