“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.
Had 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.