The reality of coming out

Adam Griffiths

In journalism, they tell you that when you can’t figure out what your story is about, break it down to statements that begin with, “This story is about.”

This story is about Jared. It’s about how I was sitting at Rosie’s this past Friday and got a call from Jared, a freshman, sobbing. It’s about how, when I met up with him about ten minutes later, I just held him for a few minutes while he cried into my arms.

This story is about coming out. One would think such stories would seem trite in a culture with shows like “Next” and “The Real World” that feature “real gays,” with token gay characters on every successful prime-time television series and celebrities coming out every day.

Then again, reality TV is rarely real at all. Outside the safe confines of the insatiable mass media, real people like Jared come out everyday, and more often than not, are received in much the same manner he was.

Unfolding like a more believable “Hills”-esque episode, his parents heard rumors through his sister that Jared had fooled around with a guy. Cut to Jared’s parents driving nearly four hours to confront him face to face and his gutsy admission after being fed up with hiding this part of his life from his family for more than seven years. Silence. His mother thinks it’s a phase, and she hopes he doesn’t embrace it and will get over it eventually. Cue the latest emo-pop-indie ballad and the tears.

Clich‚, much? But it happens daily, and an essay in Newsweek this week proves another point: It’s not just an under-20 phenomenon.

In an essay to the magazine’s “My Turn” reader-submission department, 88-year-old Loraine Barr explains how she has struggled her entire life with her sexual identity. She was inspired to come out after her life partner’s death nine years ago. They were together for 44 years.

“I was frightened,” Barr writes. “It took me several days to put this essay in the mailbox. I owe a lot of credit to people who are comfortable enough in their own skins to say, ‘This is who I am.'”

I could give example after example of stories I’ve heard over the past few years. I’ve heard everything — from friends being kicked out of their parents’ homes to others’ coming out being the missing link that connects them to their ‘rents.

The reality is that being gay is still a phenomenon in 2007, or as another gay friend recently put it, “the exception rather than the norm.” To me, being gay is no different than being black or blind, tall or fat. To a majority of the population still, however, I rape little boys, I am a bane to society and I will spend eternity damned to Hell.

Jared sent a message to his sisters on Facebook explaining the events of this past weekend, and he shared it with me.

“I am gay,” it read.

He continued: “This is perceived very differently by many different people. But to myself and anyone who is like me, this is not a choice.”

No matter what stereotypes you help to perpetuate or dispel, the reality of who I am isn’t going to change. The coming out story has become its own canon in minority literature. More and more people like Jared and Loraine have the courage to come out, and at the same time, just as many people are shoved deeper into their personal closets because of discrimination and ignorance.

At the end of her essay, Loraine poses a question that I think plagues everyone who has ever had to say three words that, for many, change their lives from that point forward — for better or worse.

“Shall I be haunted for trying to tell my story now, when many might still not wish to address it, or shall I, perhaps, be congratulated?”

Adam Griffiths is a sophomore information design major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].