Coming out is exhausting. The first few weeks of telling people were some of the most draining in my life. Each person I told required an intense emotional process—anxiously anticipating how they’d react, figuring out what words or phrases were best suited to explain it to that individual, dealing with whatever reaction they had, and finally, attempting to answer all of their questions that I still didn’t really know the answers to, as everything was still so new to me. I had to go through this over and over again with every single person I knew. It sucked.
In addition, coming out is often accompanied by so many other emotional experiences—some sort of combination of falling in love, having your heart broken, being intimate with someone of the same sex for the first time, and that whole trying to figure out how to be gay thing. For me it was mostly a first time broken heart, and dealing with that while dealing with this was almost too much to handle.
I was so angry that I had to go through it all, that this thing about me that I did not whatsoever decide required me to have to sit people down like I was “some sort of drug addict,” as Chris Carroll explained it in his Faces of Pride interview, and walk them through all of the things that had been torturing me for the past 23 years. I was angry that this thing I was born with, that I had been fighting not to feel for most of my life, this thing that I still didn’t quite understand or know how to handle was something I had an obligation to discuss with everyone because if they found out from someone else it could hurt their feelings.
It didn’t feel fair. No one else I knew was expected to call up all of their friends and their grandparents and their college roommates and their aunts and their best friends’ parents to explain their attractions to certain people. Why couldn’t I just be a normal confused and heartbroken twentysomething without having to explain my life to everyone?
For a while I rebelled against it. I declared I’d just wait until I had a girlfriend and tell people that way without having to make any sort of announcement. But apparently that is not how it works, and I quickly began receiving texts from the people I had told—people who only had the best intentions—reminding me that I better tell Person X before they find out from Person Y and if I don’t let Person Z know soon he’ll be offended that I told Person W weeks before I told him.
I couldn’t take it anymore. Every time I received a text like that I wanted to type back: “PLEASE STOP PRESSURING ME YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW HARD THIS IS I HAVE ALREADY TOLD SO MANY PEOPLE AND I’M STILL JUST TRYING TO HOLD MYSELF TOGETHER ENOUGH TO NOT BURST INTO TEARS IN PUBLIC PLACES I JUST NEED TO TAKE A BREAK. I GET TO DECIDE WHO I TELL AND WHEN, AND I GET TO DECIDE WHEN I HAVE THE ENERGY TO DEAL WITH THIS, OKAY?”
Instead I usually just responded, “I know I know. I’ll tell them soon I promise,” all the while feeling very guilty because deep down, I knew they were right. There were certain people that did deserve to hear it from me and not months after I started telling other people, but I had just grown so tired.
The order in which I chose to tell people did not make logical sense. Some of the very first people I told were relatively new friends, and I didn’t tell some of my closest friends—even some of the gay ones—for several months. Sometimes it was just a matter of waiting until the next time I talked to those people rather than calling them up specifically to inform them of this news, but other times it really wasn’t based on any rational decision-making. I just told each person when I felt like it was time to tell them, and for whatever reason I just knew when I’d be most in the mood to talk to different individuals about it.
My point is that no one should have had their feelings hurt if I didn’t call them up right away, and no one should have felt offended if for some reason they heard it from somebody else. I never wanted to hurt anyone or make them feel like they weren’t important to me. I can’t explain why I told who and when. All I can say is it was a really hard, incredibly explosive time in my life. Everything I’d been holding in was bursting out of me all at once, in addition to the fact that I’d just been rejected by the first person to whom I’d ever said, “I Love You.” I was so confused and emotional and sad, and for a good few months, I had no choice but to be a little self-centered.
I couldn’t think too hard about other people’s feelings at that time because my own feelings were far too overwhelming. Getting through each day felt like walking through concrete, and if it was that hard for someone like me, who more or less knew anyone she told would be okay with it, I can’t even imagine what it must be like for someone in worse circumstances.
Nowadays I have no problem answering questions or telling people I’m gay because I’ve had time to do a little navigating and to get comfortable with all of it. It’s no longer a draining experience, but rather an interesting and lighthearted conversation. At the beginning, though, I just hoped people knew that I was doing my absolute best, that even though I wasn’t always the most respectful or the most considerate and even though I told some people in an email or a text or sometimes failed to say anything at all, I really was trying.