Who Am I?

“Who am I?”  Meg, a DC-based blogger whose entries I always look forward to, took up the challenge from another blogger a few months back and wrote an entry answering that question.  Finding it an interesting challenge, I sat down and drafted my own answer to the question, “Who am I?”  I’ve never posted the response, but it led me to an interesting observation.  My being gay plays a much larger role in defining who I am than I expected.

2009-10-09Had you asked me before how big a part of my life being gay is, I would have said that it is just a part of who I am, not the whole thing.  While that is still true, I realize that the experience of struggling to come to terms with that aspect of myself has influenced many areas of my life and much of how I look at the world.

Instead of being just one aspect of my life, something that can be neatly segregated from the rest in the way that a divided cafeteria tray keeps the jell-o salad away from the enchilada casserole, my gayness is a theme that underlies my life, much in the same way that the saltiness of fish sauce provides a critical but subtle note of flavor in nearly all Thai dishes.

Sexual orientation as condiment?  It is either a brilliant metaphor or a crass one; I’ll let you decide.  Regardless, because it is such an underlying aspect of my life, I want to share a story with you.  I want to tell you my coming out story.

Coming out stories are something of a currency within the gay culture.  Being attracted to someone of the same sex, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily the criterion that makes for a cohesive community.  But the nearly universal experience of recognizing your difference and then blindly finding a path through the darkness to the closet door is a common theme for all of us, whether gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered.

Another blogger to whom I subscribe recently wrote that he doesn’t see why gay people need to announce that they are gay.  From his perspective, straight people don’t announce they are straight.  Why can’t we all be who we are, without having to share it with the world?  While I agree with his goal – universal acceptance – I disagree with his premise that straight people don’t announce they are straight.  There are markers aplenty that send the message that you are straight, from wedding rings to photos of your spouse on your cubicle wall.  When you are in the closet, you have to use fake markers or deception in order to avoid sending out unintended messages.  It can be stressful and tiring to constantly undertake such subterfuge.

Over the next few days, I’ll share my coming out story in the course of four chapters.  People who read this blog who know me personally have heard some parts of this story.  Few, I suspect, have heard the whole thing.  Among other readers, these next four chapters may provoke a wide range of feelings and reactions.  Some readers have had very little exposure to gay people.  Others have different attitudes than I about the rightness of homosexuality.  Others are still, to one degree or another, in the closet.  I look forward to discussing your feelings and reactions and invite you to share them.

Meanwhile, thank you for indulging me as I share this story and take a short break for cooking, travel and Thai culture entries.

Part 1 of the story begins here.

30 thoughts on “Who Am I?

  1. I look forward to reading the next chapters, Chris. I have a very close friend who confessed to me that she’s a gay (it has never occurred to me because she doesn’t look like one) and somehow, I concluded that  her childhood experience contributed a lot to what she is now. She is a dear friend ( always included in my photoblogs with friends), and her story helped me understand people more.  

  2. We all crave acceptance. Deception and secret keeping can really wear on a person’s mind, soul, and body. Being open and honest allows for a healthy life. Cheers to you for a long and healthy life! (I will be eagerly waiting to hear your story!)

  3. @marc11864 –  You’re not going to believe this Marc, but the fact that I started this on Nat’l Coming Out Day is entirely a happy coincidence. Even when I grabbed the Kieth Harring logo and removed the NCOD logo, it didn’t occur to me.

  4. @icapillas –  I’m glad that your friendship meant enough to that friend that she shared that part of her life with you. I’ll be curious to see if/how your perspective on that relationship changes over the next few days.

  5. So glad you didn’t stay in the closet…it’s really dark in there. The rest of us wouldn’t have had the learning experiences we’ve had or the growth in our understanding of other ways of living.

  6. absolutely right! i find coming out stories to be great conversation/discussion starters, especially when you’re sitting with a group of friends…looking forward to reading yours!

  7. I think that anything one has to struggle with becomes a constant undertone for one’s life, it becomes a condiment if you will 🙂 I don’t think that I know your coming out story so I’m looking forward to reading it. I’m glad that you are finally writing a response to my blog 🙂

  8. Thanks for starting this story. As a social psych major, I have always been curious about the realization part. I have grown up around the gay community but have never wanted to pry just like I don’t like asking straight people the details of their relationships.

  9. @onmovement –  And I like to look at this blog, to one degree or another, as just such a group of friends. Thanks for your nice comment.@jandsschultz –  I worry a bit that sharing this story may cause some old wounds to chafe but I also feel that there is such a diverse readership of this blog that sharing the story might do some good.@TheCheshireGrins –  Sorry it took so long to respond to your original entry. I’ve been turning it over in my mind since then, though.@minhaners –  I appreciate your supportive attitude. I would encourage you to ask other GLBT friends you have about their coming out story. It is an important story and by asking them, you’ll let them know that you not only accept them as they are now, but recognize that there was an interesting and often painful journey they had to take to get there.

  10. Chris….I am just getting home from  our vacation and I must confess that I fell horribly behind on Xanga during our travels.I am just starting to read your 4 installations and I must admit that I have always had the same theory that one of the people you quoted had. “I didn’t announce that I was heterosexual, why announce that you are gay, it is none of my business what you do behind bedroom doors” But now that you comment about “markers”…I fully understand what you mean!!! I take absolutely NO notice when a heterosexual couple are walking down the street holding hands, or when a coworker has a picture of his or her spouse on their desk…but it DOES attract notice when I see two men, or two women holding hands, a transgender person in the store, etc. NOW I get it Chris!!! Thank you for opening my eyes!!! I am looking forward to the rest of your story!!! Ruth Ann

  11. I have been putting off reading your story because I want to really be there to contemplate on it. Thanks for the intro!I don’t know if you had the same experience as a Christian.I was a Christian first before I realized I am gay, so I kinda see a parallel somehow. Christians often have a story to tell about how they come to know Christ. It is very personal and significant because it tells a story of how someone is changed completely from the inside out.I do believe our story telling can be transformational! It is a part of our witness of how life is to us. Thanks for sharing your Coming out story with us. I wish some day I will be able to tell both of my stories of how I became a Christian and how I found out and accepted myself as a Gay person.

  12. @Redlegsix – Thanks for your comments, Ruth Ann.  I realize I’m a bit delayed in responding to them as I’ve been without a computer for three days.  (How ever did I survive?!)  Shortly after I started coming out in university, a campus advisor shared some research by Vivienne Cass, who in the late 70s created a model to describe the coming out process.  It has six stages and describes pretty accurately the process I experienced on a psychological level.  It was interesting because I found it dovetailing with this concept of “markers of sexual orientation” and the idea of how (and how assertively) you display them.Wikipedia article on the Cass model

  13. Pingback: Coming Out – Chapter 1 | christao408

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