For several years after coming out to myself, I made it one of my New Yearâ€™s resolutions to always be honest about my gayness. Partly because I believed I had to do it, that I should come out as a form of activism. Partly because Iâ€™m a fundamentally honest (and, Iâ€™ve been told, extremely transparent) person whoâ€™s just not very good at lying. Mind you, I didnâ€™t always keep this resolution. My comfort level, especially in the early years, wasnâ€™t always up to the job at hand. But I gradually gained self-confidence, and learned to work through the fears that still crop up from time to time. Coming out really does get easier with practice.
There are many, many ways to be visible: the first and most obvious is to tell people. It doesnâ€™t have to be the whole school/workplace/whatever or done for any grandiose political reasons other than just needing to tell somebody else. Just one trusted friend or relative can be traumatic and cathartic enough. And Iâ€™ve found, especially as I got more involved in queer groups and events, that I didnâ€™t even need to nudge conversations in the right direction a lot of the time. Whether the topic was my personal life, what I was doing on the weekend, or if I found a particular girl attractive, I had plenty of openings for coming out.
Then there are more visual ways: t-shirts, buttons, freedom rings, etc… Starting in the spring and summer of â€™93 (especially in honor of my first Gay Pride parade) and continuing for several years, I wore lots and lots of buttons and politically-minded t-shirts. They made nice conversation pieces, and allowed me to come out to several curious friends. Alternatively, I could wear them and be visible without saying a word. How many people got the chance to read the buttons on my bag, on the street or the bus? Iâ€™ll never know. If they were straight, at least it gave them something to think about. If they were queer, at least they knew I was â€œone of the tribe.â€ I remember, years ago, walking down the street and seeing a woman with a t-shirt that said â€œDyke from Hell.â€ I personally never had the nerve to wear anything like that. But itâ€™s good that there are people who do.
Iâ€™ve also come out more indirectly, in letters, email, or on the Net (my Web site first came up in the fall of â€™95). This is easier in a lot of ways: you can reach many more people (if thatâ€™s what you want), and thereâ€™s none of the stress of a face-to-face conversation. You can prepare in advance, choose your time, pick exactly the words and tone you want to use.
Iâ€™ve reached the point where I donâ€™t make a big deal out of coming out. I donâ€™t wear queer buttons or t-shirts, and I casually come out in person or on the Net much more often than in the old days, when I believed I had to be visible. Thatâ€™s not really a contradiction. Back then, I didnâ€™t always have the strength to manage it. Besides, itâ€™s better to come out because I want to, than because I feel I have to.