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Coming Out Is Never Finished

To come out is similar to doing the laundry.  You breathe a sigh of relief when the last dryer load is finished, folded and put away.  A week later you find yourself facing another full hamper. 

After you have finished telling all of your friends, family and work colleagues that you are gay or bisexual, you meet someone new.  People just keep showing up in your life.  The people you meet in most settings will most likely assume that you are straight, a heterosexual.  How do you handle that?

If a friend introduces you to someone, that friend is not likely to say, “This is David.  He’s gay.”

When I was actively coming out, I decided that I needed to tell anyone who played an important role in my life.  For a while, I kept that same rule for new people.  If a person  simply was going to make a brief appearance in my life, I didn’t bother explaining my affectional orientation.  If, on the other hand, that person was going to become a part of my social circle or started showing me pictures of his wife and kids, I quickly found some way or explaining my identity.

For the most part, I continue to live with that rule of thumb.  However, I do make exceptions.  If someone expresses an assumption of my heterosexuality, I immediately disavow them of their thinking.  A couple stories will illustrate.

The first time I was offended by someone assuming that I was straight was when I decided to buy a new car.  Before going to any dealerships, I had narrowed my quest to three models (one each from the major U.S. manufacturers).  My first stop was the local Ford dealer.  My salesman and I were in the car, I was driving, and he was babbling about what a great deal he could give me.  As I was turning back into the dealership, he said, “Is there a little woman who will be choosing the color?”  I was angry for two reasons.  First, I consider myself a feminist, and I consider the term, “little woman,” to be demeaning toward women.  Second–and this was a new feeling for me–I was angry that he had assumed that I was straight. 

Now, I don’t have anything against straight people.  Indeed, (are you ready for the line?) some of my best friends are straight.  Most of my family members are straight, and they’re all pretty good people.

I turned to the salesman and said, without missing a beat, “The little woman is a big man, and he lets me choose my own color.”  I probably don’t have to tell you that I didn’t buy a Ford.

I’m sure this has happened to you:  The phone rang.  I answered.  The voice on the other end asked, “May I speak with the lady of the house?”  I replied, “I might be the lady of the house, but I’m not sure.  My partner and I aren’t really into role playing.”  There was about a five second uncomfortable silence, followed by a click.

I try to find a new way with every instance of that sort of question or remark to make the person as uncomfortable as possible.  It’s become a fun game, and it’s part of my activism to make a presumption of heterosexuality a historic phenomenon rather than a part of contemporary life.






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