I pen this with insuperable apprehension, stemming primarily from two causes. Firstly, I have tremendous respect for this forum, and while this is, at prima facie, merely a student-run, local publication, I treat it as a prestigious academic journal. I take every piece I author seriously, with intent to broach and embrace difficult philosophical or political frameworks, pose provocative contentions, and raise novel questions. This piece, because of its highly personal nature, its focus on myself, and its somewhat selfish motive, I fear, will do neither of those things. Secondly, the topic or– in the case of a surprisingly large contingency of you– the revelation I intend to offer to you is highly sensitive. I am gay, and self-deceptively out.
Gayness, by now, is widely advertised thanks to the bravery of so many individuals who have announced being so. However, this concept that I introduce to you now, “self-deceptively out,” viscerally seems as incoherent and specious as it is foreign. I coin this disjointed term to indicate the predicament into which I have been entrenched since June 2015. During that month, I announced via Facebook that I am gay. The response was refreshingly positive. My mother did, and always will accept me, and I felt a torrent of relief that I have now realized was merely ephemeral. Once I got back to campus in the fall, I began to realize that not everyone got the message.
Of course, there is the possibility that persons whom I think do not know actually do, and the imperceptible or non-existent changes in our interactions gave me the wrong impression. However, I have experienced a lot of people inquiring into whether I was dating a female or goading me to go to a social outing because “there will be plenty of cute girls there.” Therefore, I think my extrapolation, with that being considered, is not that off-kilter.
In complete candor, this was partly my doing. When told that available women would be at a certain venue, I would feign interest, but politely decline. I would allow all the new people I have met to believe that I was straight. Whenever conversation arose with other students about romantic encounters or plans with females, I would nod my head aimlessly. I would nod, pretending I had or have had similar aspirations I have never truly known in my whole life. All the while I had a sort of cognitive fissure wearing me down.
I could take the easiest path, continuing to reap the benefits inherent to the privilege of passing, while convincing myself that I was not actually being deceptive. “It is not my fault others may have been too busy to have read my status or too obtuse to take my occasional hints,” I would often think. However, I think I always knew that I was only fooling myself (hence the “self-deceptive” part of my terminology). The deeper problem was always within me.
For some reason, as of late, this has been continuously reverberating in my head. On the 5th of April, I came to a metaphorical fork in the road. I recall vividly transiting the flower-petal littered path that lay between Jeter and Dennis, and saying to myself, “I could very well go back into the closet.” That is, I could very well pretend that the fateful June 8th post never happened. I could very well go on and let this “gay phase” dissipate into the wind and be buried in the heap of yesterday. To be honest, I kind of wanted to. I thought being closeted, in my particular case, was not bad, because at least I tried to be honest. But now I see my thinking was only self-deceptive; I was deferring the blame and ignoring the true problem: my fears and my own self-image.
I wanted to get rid of the gay label, because I am afraid of the baggage it entails. Fear poses the obvious challenge of coming out. There is a part of me that was, and still is, afraid of physical retaliation or social resentment for my announcement. I am afraid that the friends I have come to know will think of me differently and treat me accordingly. I am scared that I will lose respect. Most painfully, I still dread the day when I have to finally inform my extended family of my sexuality. Their religiosity, albeit decently motivated, has most of it convinced of the immorality of homosexuality. I fear that, upon their learning, I will lose their love, and that is a pain I am not quite ready to fathom or face.
Even with all of this, the largest impediment has been myself. I am still not completely comfortable with who I am. To those who know me the best, I am sure that this discomfort materialized itself in the form of a sour disposition, an undercurrent of discontentment, irascibility, and just plain being a dick. That is the saddest part of all of this.
I am still afraid that being gay makes me less of a man. I am so wary of being perceived as an effeminate “queen,” in any way, shape, or form that I have become willing to hide my identity. I am afraid that being gay makes me a sexual deviant, thanks to years of exposure to conjecture and homophobic rhetoric in the public sphere that asserts so. I fear that I do not have a place in the LGBT community. What is so warped about this particular fear is that I cannot muster the courage to get involved because of the stigma, be it real or imaginary, that comes with corresponding, University-sanctioned programs.
As I pen this–and as you read this in its published form–my decision is obvious. As I have lain forth all of these personal tempests of emotion and introspection, I realized that this year, I was being self-deceptive. I was fooling myself into thinking that being perceived as straight was solely the fault of others, when the blame was mostly mine. I am not necessarily saying that I should have made my sexuality a point in every conversation, correspondence, or essay. I am posing that my willingness to go along with and even facilitate falsity belied my own form of self-loathing.
That is the nastiest form of oppression homophobia has ever exacted. Like racism, homophobia’s potency is contained in its ability to make the gay person hate and devalue him or herself. As political history shows, it seems to be increasingly evident that the best way to repress someone is to convince him or her to repress his or herself.
So, I come out to you today, not to grab attention. I do it, even though some of you may already know, because the source of my dis-ease was more so internal. I do it because it is how I make peace with myself. It is my way of dismissing the aforementioned fears and stereotypes that have impinged my psyche.
I do so on a continuing quest toward acceptance of my sexuality. It makes me no less of a man, no less of an intellect, nor any less of a person. “Yes, I am gay.” I do so knowing full well that there may be negative consequences to my announcement, and yet go forward anyway. For, it is better to be rejected whilst being yourself than to be accepted whilst living a lie (or in my case, a half-truth). I do so because I understand that the worst kind of lie one could tell is the one that lies to oneself.
Perhaps, you can relate to my story. If so, I hope you find solace in hearing that you are not alone. My advice is to come out only when you are ready. Coming out reflexively, as if you have to, is just as bad as remaining closeted. There is no use in telling others and asking for acceptance, when you cannot accept yourself. Perhaps, you cannot relate and yet found the resolve to bear with me. Either way, I hope you forgive my moment of self-indulgence.
The opinions presented in this article solely represent those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Forum Magazine or its staff.