Coming Out When Everyone Already Knows You're Gay
In the 2013, the all-American gay has a handy timeline they can follow , and it doesn't look too different than the all-American straight guy. It ends with a struggle to outlive your best frenemy, which is preceded by seeing your children graduate college. Before that is marriage, which happens after you have finished jumping from club to club, finding the most Abercrombie & Fitch looking gay bros around. A few steps before you start getting down with men, you have to get through your phase of being attracted exclusively to straight men.
It all starts with coming out, which is what society views as our wholly positive moment of freedom from secrets and hiding. However, what many folks don’t know is that coming out isn't always positive. In fact, coming out favors very specific gays.
I have never known this privilege due to its ties to homonormativity, which is an extraordinary sneaky, almost undetectable part of culture. It essentially encourages and empowers the gays who come the closest to mirroring their heterosexual brothers and sisters and to gain this power, you have to be the straightest gay person you can be.
I have never been a straight-acting gay. My sexual orientation was always visible. I was never interested in girls romantically, but had a group of friends made up entirely of girls. Once I gathered the courage to accept my sexuality, I decided to tell my family. The responses were not nearly the same as what I’d imagined in the glorious coming out moment I had planned in my head.
For those of us that display "signs" of homosexuality from a young age, coming out is a moment of telling people something they already knew. When I came out the responses were, "Duh," and "It wasn’t really a secret." There is not nearly as much validation and support for those whose gender expression hints that they may be gay (i.e. feminine gay men and masculine lesbians).
It's different for lesbians and gays who don't "act gay." The support often resembles celebration more than anything else. We applaud them because we believe that they had to work harder to hide their identities, while the most flamboyant types were already half way out of the closet.
In short, we applaud them for giving up their "straight privilege." Freedom to Marry lists the many rights denied to gays, mostly in the specific vein of the family unit (spouse & child). This is relevant because it suggests that the straight-acting gays had heterosexual privilege at one point or another and are choosing to give that up in exchange for oppressive laws and policies, while those who appear visibly gay may not have ever had that privilege in the first place.
Giving up privilege to be oneself does, in fact, deserve congratulations and support; however, it should not be significantly greater than support for gays that were already "visible." People don’t choose their mannerisms, voice, or gender expression. Coming out is an act of great courage, regardless of how "obvious" a person’s sexuality may appear.
Huffington Post houses a sizable portion of these "courageous" coming out stories. While the privilege is not always explicit, the wording around the various celebrities tells us how to feel. Where the celebrity’s sexuality may have been more evident they use words like "finally" and "confirmed," rather than "revealed." "Finally" is certainly not a word I’d use for something that personal, because it’s on their time, not mine.
Anderson Cooper is a celebrity who got a lot of "finallys." Funny Or Die ran a short piece called, "6 Reasons We Already Knew Anderson Cooper Was Gay; a Showbizspy article on Cooper begins, "Anderson Cooper has finally admitted what we all knew: that’s he gay." In a Towleroad article, the website mockingly refers to him as having been in a "glass closet."
If you compare a more masculine actor, Wentworth Miller, and his coming out experience to Cooper’s, you'll find that they are very different. A simple Google search features articles that talk about Miller "revealing" his sexuality, and chronicle his struggles with the decision. With Miller, there are no jokes or satire.
Miller should certainly be supported for coming out.. But why it is that Miller is treated so positively, and Cooper is treated as if he did nothing at all? Sure, there was generally a consensus of support for Cooper, but the fact is: if a world-renowned newsman like Cooper was joked about, what can young, scared gays expect the reaction to be like for them?
It is essential that we learn that coming out is about the people who choose to do so, and not the rest of us. It's always a sacred moment. Don't ruin it.