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Half In, Half Out

Coming-out when you're half in and half out of the closet

Art by Oliver Mackie Pawson.

There seems to be this pervasive misconception that once you’re out, you’re out, completely, ready to express your sexuality in every way, shape and form. However, as I quickly realised, this is far from the case. Whilst the mass Facebook post does some work for you, for most people, coming out is done repeatedly, on a case-by-case basis. Even once you’ve come to everyone, there’s always the daunting task of figuring out when to come-out to new people you meet and befriend. Whilst some advocate for an ASAP approach, I personally can’t seem to muster the will to do the same. I consider myself to be half-in the closet, half-out of the closet. I’ve only come out to a handful of people within my life, ten, fifteen at most, plus some random people who have been at the right place at the right time and have managed to put two-and-two together. Luckily, I’ve been blessed with amazing friends from this university who’ve not only helped me come out but also shown great compassion and love in helping me figure out my sexuality. From those who provided direct guidance, to those who were offered silent, but valued support, I’m forever grateful.

I’d recommend to anyone questioning their sexuality to find an LGBTQ+ person to converse with about their thoughts. I don’t think I would’ve ever come out if it weren’t for my wonderful LGBTQ+ friends, who showed me the normalcy of it all. I didn’t grow up with any LGBTQ+ people within my life, but thanks to my friends, I got to see that LGBTQ+ people are just that, people, who can and deserve to live normal, happy and productive lives. I first came out to them, not in some big grand confession, but in a subtle questioning. On some fateful day in August, I asked one of my friends, Thomas*, when he first started to question his sexuality. With that question uttered, there was no turning back, and I finally began to open the door of the closet. From there, I told the rest of my friends, who, as anticipated, accepted with gracious and wide-open arms, as loving friends always should.

After telling my main group of friends, I decided to tell my friends from my Mandarin class. With them, it was a bit different, as I didn’t really know what to expect. I wasn’t anticipating homophobia, but at the same time, I had no definitive answer as to whether telling them would be a good idea. But I decided to take a leap of faith. Telling my first friend from the group, Hunter*, has proven itself to be the most nerve-racking event of my life. Out near the stairs of Town Hall, at about 7:00PM on a Friday night, getting ready to go out in the city. Hunter had arrived first, and I second, and so we began to discuss the recently finished exams. When the conversation got to a point where I could segue my coming-out into the conversation, I took my chance, and then blurted it out. In my overwhelming nerves, however, I couldn’t say it in English, and so, with some crude Mandarin, I came out to him, Wǒ bù xǐhuān nǚrén, wǒ xǐhuān nánrén. I’ve only recently realised how great his reaction. Not disgust or horror, thankfully, and not overwhelming joy or support. But indifference, an accepting indifference. He didn’t make a big fuss either way but accepted it and was okay with it. He realised the reality of the situation before I did. I was gay, yes, but that didn’t change the fact that I was still me, with all my flaws and all my perfections. All that was different was that I liked people of the same sex. That didn’t mean everything about me had changed, or that I was now some completely different person. I was, and I am still me. So, thank you, Hunter. I’m forever grateful for that. In truth, I consider it to be my first coming out, more so than telling Thomas. Because it showed me that everything was going to be okay and that I would be normal at the end of it all.

However, other than my friends from university, my coming-out has been quite limited. In fact, I’ve only ever told people I’ve known since going university, and as such the people who dominated the first nineteen years of my life have utterly no idea of my sexuality. In particular, my parents have no knowledge of my sexuality. My parents are the stereotype conservative Catholic: Mass every Sunday, prayers recited every day, rosary beads always in the pocket, conservative beliefs about everything from abortion to euthanasia. But with sexuality, it’s a bit more confusing. They love Will and Grace and my dad encouraged me to go to Mardi Gras, but they voted “No” and my father scoffs at the idea of drag queens.

This constant confusion as to their true feelings on the matter has left me utterly scared and unwilling to come out to them. At best, it will be a reluctant acceptance, at worst, a disownment. My fears, of course, lie within the latter. Not only for the social and mental trauma this would cause, but also the financial stress this would have on me. Unlike with my friends, who I could easily live without if they weren’t accepting of it, I certainly cannot live without my parents, financially and emotionally. So, for now, I remain in the closet to them. Maybe in four years, when I graduate and (hopefully) find a full-time job, I’ll consider coming out to them. But even then, I would’ve only have solved my financial problems. For the social and mental trauma, I’ll need to find a way to deal with it. Luckily, I think I’ve got some amazing people to help deal with that when the time comes. But for now, I’m half-in, half-out.

 

*Names changed for anonymity