What is coming out? Telling someone that I am different from the norm.
Most people look at someone and immediately determine if they are female or male. If I am in a winter coat with one of my baseball caps on, I get “Can I help you sir?” when I go into a store. They may figure it out and apologize, but first looks bring determinations about people.
We all do it. I say all this because I know most people upon meeting me will assume I’m straight.
Coming out isn’t something I do every day. I don’t boldly tell someone I’ve just met: “Hey, I’m Alyce, and I’m gay. I wanted you to know.”
No, that isn’t what I do. If I meet someone new, I introduce myself as Alice. That’s it. Being gay isn’t usually part of a discussion I have with a new acquaintance.
(Okay, you may have noticed that I changed the spelling of my name there. I introduce myself as a generic “Alice,” like Alice in Wonderland, so everyone will pronounce my name correctly.)
Coming out to Uncle Stanley
Yet there are times when I do find the need to share that I am a lesbian. I remember coming out to my Uncle Stanley. As you know, he was like a second father to us. I talked to him and Aunt Mary Lou quite frequently once I moved to Georgia.
I remember the conversation I had with him that led to me coming out to them. I had gone out on a date on a Friday night. They had called and left a voicemail for me; this was before cell phones.
I don’t remember if I called them back or they called me, but we talked the next day. They asked what I was doing on a Friday night. I told them I had gone out on a date. Now, as a person who was not yet ready to come out to my aunt and uncle, I used a very gender-neutral vocabulary.
“Where did you go?” To dinner.
“How did you meet?” I met them at work.
“Did you have fun?” Yes, I did.
“How long have you been seeing him?” We have been seeing each other for a few weeks.
“When will you be seeing him again?” We have not made plans just yet.
“Do you like him?” Yes, they are very nice.
“So, what is his name?”
This is the question that opened the door for me to come out of the closet. Sure enough, I could not answer this without telling them I was gay. I hesitated, then said, “Well, it isn’t a ‘he,’ Uncle Stanley; you see I am seeing a woman and her name is …”
I loved his response: “Does she make you happy?”
“Then that is all that matters, I am glad you have found someone that makes you happy.”
It was great! Full acceptance, no further explanation needed. I loved it, so easy. I could now share about my dating life. Something I couldn’t do when I was in the closet. It frees one up to enjoy life more.
Coming out in other settings
There are other times you must figure out if you need to come out or not. You should always let your primary care physician know. I am not even sure when I came out to her, but she knows I am gay and did before I was told it is something doctors need to know by an oncology gynecologist.
He asked me a direct question about my lifestyle, so I said, “I am a lesbian.” He said that having a gay lifestyle leads to increased odds of having some health issues. I did not know that. I shared that with all my lesbian friends.
There are times when you come out because the situation requires it. One good example is when a friend who doesn’t know that you are gay wants to introduce you to a guy that would be perfect for you. Yep, that’s a good time to tell them.
If you are asked if you have a boyfriend, that one is up to you really, and the situation. A simple “no” works, and if you don’t want them to fix you up, tell them you enjoy being single and are not looking.
You also must worry about coming out at work. You may not want to since you can be fired for being gay. I lost my first job in Georgia because I wanted to be openly gay at work and they didn’t want any openly gay people working there.
I will say this led me to include questions about my ability to be openly gay at work during future job interviews. I can honestly say I didn’t declare I was gay to all the other employees when I was hired. I just let it happen when it happened, but at least I knew I wasn’t going to lose this job just because I am a lesbian.
Coming out is an on-going process that can take place at any time for the rest of my life. Really? Yes, really. As long as society sees me and assumes I need a man in my life, there will be always come circumstances where I will need to clarify a situation and come out.
Thanks for listening bro.
The longtime Vicar of Education for Gentle Spirit Christian Church of Atlanta, Alyce Keener (she/her) has felt a twofold calling from an early age toward teaching and toward God. Her religious education started in earnest at her first vacation Bible school, which spurred the realization at a very young age of how important God and Jesus were in her life. She began to pray daily and later began studying the Bible in earnest in college, where she became involved with the Navigators, later taking classes at Moody Bible Institute. Born in Ohio, she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Illinois, and was active in local churches, serving on a missions committee, helping develop a church library, leading educational programs and directing a young adults program.