Simon Williamson: Lessening the burden of coming out

One of the most frustrating things about coming out — even in these most contemporarily accepting times of homosexuality since Jesus was spread all over the globe to ban it — is that the entire risk, burden and fallout always rests with us. No matter the person’s reaction, we have to be the ones prepared for anger or tears or bigotry. We are the ones who have to worry about being hit, or being thrown out of our homes, or losing our family members.

I had two attempts at coming out: the first one shot a blank and I wish I had pushed it harder, but I retreated from my public self because I was scared of what my life would be like without the people and things in it that I was scared to lose. I was threatened, my spine turned to mush and I spent a further 10 years leading two separate lives. The people I was doing this for … their lives changed not a whit. This was much easier for them than it was for me. I was left holding the bag. The entire bag. Every consequence affected me in some manner.

Even when I came out the second time, I still felt bad and guilty and miserable, while I was completely and 100 percent in the right. I did nothing wrong and still felt like it was my fault some people were upset. At a ripe 34 years of age I wish I could tell my younger self that this wasn’t my shit to deal with, that people who hate us must work it out themselves. That me wanting to live my life how I wish to supersedes whether other people hate LGBT people or not.

I was reminded of how I felt during those times when, last week, one of my best friends in the world was asking me whether or not she should approach her teenage son about his sexual identity. My first reaction was to get all up in her face about letting him do what he wanted, when he wanted without pushing him at all, in spite of the fact that she has created an incredibly comfortable environment for both her children, who have known many LGBT people their entire lives.

But upon reflection, I realized she was trying to take some of the burden off him. I don’t know many mothers of teenage sons, so this was a first for me: watching a mother try to lessen the load of coming out from someone who, as all of us who read this paper can understand, was forced to carry it.

Those of us who have been out for a long time might forget how incredibly risky it is to come out. When it is done it cannot be undone, and even in the safest family and social environments there is justifiable paranoia. She tried to alleviate some of that for her child, and I was overcome with gratitude on his behalf. My coming out was difficult and horrible, and I still had it easy compared to many, many members of our LGBT family. A parent trying to take some of that pressure off their child? Well, if I could parent like that, I would give myself an A.