Monday, December 21, 2009

out of the closet yet still in the woods

out of the closet
yet still in the woods

being 'out of the closet' is synonymous with being openly gay, but often times identifying oneself as either 'in' or 'out' doesnt tell the whole story. i consider most of my friends out of the closet, but when i reevaluate what it means to be 'out' im no longer convinced that they meet that standard- and i question whether i can even classify myself as out.

what does it mean to be out? i regard myself out as a lesbian, however there are those who dont know that im gay.
does that make me less out? when i stated i 'came out' it was after i finally admitted to myself that i was gay, and then subsequently told my family. is coming out solely a personal experience? is it more about admitting to oneself, or to those around us? ive come to the conclusion that there are levels of being out.


level one: coming out to yourself
this is arguably the scariest stage of coming out. generally speaking, those in this stage arent a part of the gay community, or lack interaction with it as they are just dipping their toes into the gay waters. unfortunately, this is also the time when many feel the most alone and depressed, as if there is no place to turn and they are completely alone. of course, we know that this could not be further from the truth- that all it takes is a bit of courage to step up and show your face, and the gay community is very welcoming.

i know that one of the hardest things for me, was introducing myself to the gay community. from the outside looking in, it seemed like a world so unlike anything id ever seen before. i worried constantly that i wouldnt fit in, i doubted myself, i wasnt sure of anything- it was a postpubecent version of high school. its not until one is comfortable with themselves, and can say 'i am gay' to others in order to move on to the next step.

level two: coming out to your friends
this is the stage ive found a lot of my friends are in. they identify 100% (or in some cases 50%...i didnt forget you bisexuals!) as gay, they are out in our social scene, they are comfortable in the gay world, but they still refuse to come out completely. their families have no idea how they live their lives, and even if they have their suspicions- often times the parents are so in denial, covering for their children is no problem.

my nana covers for me all the time. ive never discussed with her my being gay. she has met girlfriends of mine, and she adores danielle (my girlfriend, who is referred to as 'my very good friend' by my nana) but she has never said to me, 'ashley i know you are gay'- nor have i ever felt compelled to exclaim to her, 'nana im a dyke'. she does however know im gay. (i only know this because last christmas my mother got me a shirt that said 'i kissed a girl and i liked it'. i tried to hide the shirt, and told my mother later in the day that i was worried my nana saw it. she said 'nana knows you are gay, are you kidding me?' no, i was not in fact kidding you..well- good to know) she is very big into the church scene and her friends often ask, 'hows ashley doing?' my nana loves to gloat about my life, as grandmothers do, but i find it hilarious that one of the things shes most proud of is my commitment to my job and my work ethic as a whole. she will often point to THIS as the reason i dont have a boyfriend, 'oh my ashley is far too motivated to waste her time with men!' i mean, shes not exactly lying now is she?

level three: coming out to your family
i know that i speak about my friends as if they are all comfortable with their sexuality, and for the most part they all are. however its not uncommon for people to be sure of their sexuality and yet still keep their families in the dark. certainly not something i necessarily suggest or endorse, but i felt obligated to let others who arent out know that they arent alone. whether they fear their families will completely shun them, or they worry that their parents will no longer support them, or simply dont feel its their families business.

im very close with my family and felt that if i was going to be out i had to clue them in on that portion of my life. it was not an option to lie, or try to hide who i was. in hindsight, i probably was a bit too demonstrative in my coming out with my family. i was extremely vocal, in that i wanted them to know that i was sure of my sexuality. this was something i had grappled and come to terms with and i wanted them to be 100% on board with me.

i learned very quickly you should never expect a certain response from anyone. in my head, my parents were going to be completely open and accepting, as they are now, but these things take time. just as it took me years to admit to myself i was gay, it is something that family members have to adjust to- regardless of how open minded they may be.


i think being out on whatever level you are comfortable with is whats most important. even if you are just flirting with coming out of the closet just know that you are not alone, and that there are people out there who will accept you.

1 comment:

  1. ashley, thanks for sharing this. you are so articulate and insightful. i always enjoy reading your blog.