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Boys and Girls Come Out to Play

Here’s my coming out story, which I happened to tell in real life last week: at the end of my fresh year in college, I was not getting along well with my roommate, so I asked another friend of mine if he wanted to room together for sophomore year. He agreed, and we made a deal (room assignment was complicated and involved lottery numbers and, well, it’s not worth going into, but it was important to have a deal in advance). The next day, or perhaps two days later, he asked to talk to me privately. He wanted to tell me he was gay, and to give me a chance to back out of the deal. It was clearly a difficult conversation for him, and to be honest, it was an awkward conversation for me. I did not back out of the deal, and I didn’t want to back out of the deal, but it took me a moment or two to adjust to the information. I don’t think I handled the conversation very well—I wanted to be sure that he knew I wasn’t gay, and I think we both wanted it to be clear that he wasn’t attracted to me, just because I was a male—this is the part that embarrasses me in retrospect, as I had no reason to think he was attracted to me, but it seemed important at the time. Anyway.

We roomed together for two years, and were very close, and eventually fought and had trouble and became less close, but none of that had anything to do with his sexual preferences. Nor did I find that having a gay roommate caused me any trouble or grief of any kind, either in my social or romantic life. We were at a small liberal arts college that was particularly keen on inclusion and equality; things would likely have been different at a different place. But for us, and our social circle, at that time, and where we were, it turned out not to be a problem.

In fact, when my room-mate came out more publicly later in that year, and I was shown to Not Have a Problem With That, it likely made it easier for the other people who came out to me to do so. I hope so, anyway. Certainly that’s one of the things I like to mention about National Coming Out Day: every person who comes out of the closet makes it a bit easier for another person to come out, which makes it a bit easier for another person. Which makes it easier for us straight people, actually, who would like to live in a world where our friends don’t lie to us, don’t feel they have to lie to us, don’t actually have to lie to us.

I don’t have any greater point in telling the story. I mean, I do hope that somewhere there is some college roommate coming out to his or her roommate, and finding that it will be OK. We have now an odd situation in this country where a teenager may find gay-straight alliances in high school, supportive parents, and even bring a same-sex date to prom and be welcomed, but go back in a Frosh Closet on moving into a dorm. I hope not, I hope that’s a myth, but I suspect it’s true, and sad, and difficult, and painful, and occasionally deadly.

I doubt that any Gentle Readers are not gay-friendly; I know some are gay, and perhaps there are others that are keeping me in the closet for now. I want to take this Coming Out Day to thank the people who have come out to me, and to ask if I can make it easier for those who have not—easier, at any rate, than it was the first time.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


It's funny; when i was at college N years later, the whole place seemed like one big gay/straight alliance. I came out more-or-less immediately; i don't even remember how, but i remember being 18 and clueless, and having no fear about it at all.

I was closeted in high school except among a small group of friends, which became a bit bigger over time, but was always limited by the population of the writing club. (Arguably i joined the writing club because i was closeted. The people were nice geeky types, but i'm not a writer left to my own devices.) There was a fair bit of bigotry, but, because i was at a huge school and had learned the lesson that people who weren't my friends didn't need to know who i was, it wasn't directed at me. I felt threatened by it, though, and i wanted out.

I started getting glossy brochures from colleges, and Swat's had the LGBTQ group listed among their list of sample organizations on the back cover, and i thought, "well that's alright then." And it was alright; i quit the LGBTQ after a couple of weeks because i was 18 and clueless and a geek and that was not so much their thing, and they were not so much my thing. That was too bad for my dating prospects, but i was never afraid of being out of the closet. People came out to me who were not publically out, and there was a certain amount of dissent about whether Swat was really a safe space. But that wasn't my experience at all.

Now, i was dumb, and i did have a crush on my sophomore year roommate, and that was a bit of a social disaster. We were in the time before coed rooming options (it may still be that time; i'm not sure what the current state is), and it happens that might have helped me. But social disasters happen, and i am given to understand that they happen to straight people too. And my old roommate and i became friends again, and i am going to be an usher in her wedding this weekend.

So it's hard for me to see that i have anything to complain about.

For what it's worth, I had a similar experience with the first person who ever came out to me - it was awkward; I could have handled it better; I wish I'd handled it better; we got over it. Mitigating factors include: I was in high school, which puts it somewhere in the late 1980s, and I kinda sorta fancied the guy for some reason. But there it is.

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