Again this is my 2nd coming out article written in 2003
After posting my initial coming out article, a lot of people wrote to me, to express their thanks and also to share some of their lives with me. I would like to thank all who have trusted me in talking about their lives and also to those who have given me their continuous support.
It has been some 3 years since I last talked about my coming out experiences. 3 years have passed and, of course, I have came out to more people since. This article shall explore my experience or the past 3 years and some insights to this coming out thing.
The Importance of Coming Out
I cannot stress more that the process of coming out is an individual process. It is based on one’s capacity and environment. As such, for some it will be fast and others very slow, maybe never. It is a process of identifying ourselves as a gay person, regarding that self-confidence and consciously making the effort that other people could also know about it.
Having said that I always equate the process of coming out with that of growing up. As such, as much as it is important for anyone to grow up, so that they have the maturity to handle differences and difficulties in life, it is also as important for a gay person to come out of the closet. The coming out process is a maturing of the gay person’s confidence, self-identity and emotions.
One who is too tightly squeezed in the closet is constantly gripe with fears of being known, falls into depression easily of not being “normal” and/or feeling bad or sinful about his sexuality. This is not a good nor healthy life to lead. The sooner that we come out, the sooner you start to enjoy life and happiness, not unlike the feeling of being released from prison or having a huge stone lifted out of your heart.
I know that a lot of us tend to associate “coming out” with the effeminate, loud, overbearing and arrogant people. This is probably because these are the same people who are more visible in society. Being effeminate is not a problem, the problem seems to be that a lot effeminate people take on a weak character. What do I mean by that? They act and behaviors worst than women do! They scream at the slightest discomfort or scare, have emotional swings, have the most plastic canned laughter and act like they are the queen or princess of some kingdom.
Now don’t get me wrong again, there is nothing wrong with being a loud sister. I think that they can be quite a fun bunch of friends to be with (also a good test of how much self-confidence you have). It is those overbearing and arrogant one that I don’t really like. They give a bad name to the gay community. If we want respect from the society, then it will important for us gay people, who are out to the society, to be kind, humble, considerate, compassionate and loving people. This is the only way to show our worth in the society.
To “come out” does not mean that we start imposing our “gayness” on everyone we meet, except when you are doing some social experiments, like I would do some of the times. It means not to just act like “one of the boys”, it means to have the self-confidence to stand our grounds and it means not to guilty or sinful about who we are.
My friends always like to ask me why I like to wear t-shirts and wear badges that says that I’m gay. To tell the truth at this stage of my life, I am quite comfortable with myself enough such that there is no more need to be out. So one of the reason why I constantly out myself in the public is to help the society break their stereotypical view that all gay people are effeminate and a muscle queen. This is the only small part I can play for the gay community.
Now, don’t get the illusion that people will never know. Today in the Internet age, with the exposure of gay themes in cinema, news media and TV, don’t think that your friends, colleagues or family won’t start piecing one with the other. So, why give them the joy of discovery? The first step is always the scariest, but it is also a leap of faith. Nobody else can jump for you.
In the Family
A lot of people are very surprised when I tell them that my dad doesn’t know yet that his son is gay. I think coming out to the family is an issue that will be the very sensitive for most gay people and each individual should approach it as they see fit. I don’t think that any of us should pressurize anyone to come out to their family and, in my opinion, sometimes its just best that the family don’t know.
That said, however, we must never adopt an attitude that the family will not and must not know. I mean after you turn 35, your family members must really be wondering by then. Thus, we must, ourselves, be constantly prepared mentally that someone in the family will notice and will confront you with it. Not going to tell your family members doesn’t mean that they would not approach you on this subject. Neither should it mean that you can hide it from them forever.
The funny thing about outing yourself to your family (or even friends) is that you can never assume how they will react. A conservative father may react very acceptingly, whereas a liberal mother or sister may be total disgusted with that idea. Of course, most of the time your family members are as predictable as you would think of them.
Well, those who have read my previous article who know that I had came out to my sister. Things are back where they are, no changes in my sister or brother-in-laws attitudes. As we don’t really have a habit of talking about our problems or relationships, so my sister have not really brought up this issue. However, I did notice that my sister defended for me once, when my dad bugged me about marriage when we had lunch together. You see, before that my sister would agreed to and reinforce my father’s message.
As for my Dad, well, I think he will get to know about it sooner or later. Don’t get me wrong, I am not acting straight in front of him. I have never hinted that I ever had a girlfriend, nor ever talked about girls with him. In fact, I showed much distaste when he talked about such matters. Neither do I act different with my Dad, still the caring, crazy son he has.
I still have 2 more half-brothers, both married from my father’s side (different mom), whom I do intend to let them know about it. Its just that we almost seldom or never meet. Even, so opportunities are not there. However, now that both of them are married, they will definitely talk about this boring topic with me, if and when we meet, and guess what my reply will be?
In the Army
I had a chance for another coming out session in during reservist in Brunei recently. We are in our commanders training phase, where only the sergeants and officers are training. The bunch us are sitting around the bunk talking, when one of the officers (my Coy 2IC actually) talked about the Speakers’ Corner and how Alex Au want to speak there about gay issues. Of course, the facts are not correct and, hence, I had a chance to correct them. After that, they started asking more about me being gay, how I feel about it, how I feel about women, etc. Of course, one of my very Christian mate was encouraging me to look at the alternatives, which I assured him won’t make a difference. Again, knowing my sexual orientation never effected how my commanders think about me or, indeed, how much they trust to be with me in their missions.
I have recently joined a new company, so effectively, I am not “out” yet. However, my colleague, who is a married man with a newborn, actually pop the question to me. Of course, I was out to him. What is funny is that he was more worried about people knowing about me (because I talked quite loud sometimes in the office) than I was. Well, I don’t know if its because he was worried of people associating me with him. Anyhow, the reason he could sort of tell, is that he had studied in Melbourne and had gay friends. Secondly, my first day lunch, I had indicated that I was not attached, married, nor have intention to.
… and Friends
hmmm… I seemed to have come out to most of my friends by now…
Since I started the Gay Buddhist Fellowship called Heartland, many straight Buddhist brothers and sisters have emailed to me to congratulate on good job well done and to keep on the effort. I think, generally, the Buddhist community (except some of the monks and nuns) are pretty okay with this matter. In the recent Global Conference, I came out to an audience of about 1000, followed by enthusiastic applause from the crowd, when the speaker, a monk, commented of my courage. After the conference, some of the monks and nuns talked to me about what I did and encouraged me on. Recently, Buddhist Fellowship suggested that I started the gay chapter under their umbrella, which I graciously accepted.
Many people think that they cannot do what I have done, but the truth is you don’t have to. What I do is not important if it doesn’t help you. I think that you will do well, if you just look at your ones character, environment, family and friends and work with what you have. Your situation may not be appropriate to be out with other people, so be it then. But what is more important is that you find your self-confidence and being very comfortable with who you are, what you are and where you are going.