Rarely do I speak the words, “I am gay (or lesbian).” Although very early in my being out process, I attempted this strategy at work, rather unsuccessfully. This happened years ago when gay marriage was but a blip on the radar screen.
I was working at a private psychiatric hospital and it was the end of a very long workday. I walked my last client out to the lobby, and, after saying goodbye, the receptionist said I had a personal call waiting. She asked if I wanted the call transferred to my office, or if I wanted to take it there at the front desk. I opted to take the call right there in the lobby. After transferring the call, she picked up her Bible and started reading again – which is how she spent her time between calls.
The call was brief. I talked about what time I’d be home, what I wanted to do for dinner, then I hung up the phone.
The receptionist, with whom I had never had much communication, turned to me and said, “You’re married, right, Michele?” And I casually replied, “Nope, not married.” So she followed up with, “Well, you’re engaged, aren’t you?” To which I again replied, “Nope, not engaged either.” Finally she gives up and innocently said, “Well, why did I think that?” And as nonchalantly as I had replied to the questions before, I said, “I’m not sure why, either, because I’m gay.”
To my surprise, she burst into laughter, only pausing long enough to respond with a playful, “You’re so funny, you’re always joking!” We both smiled and I headed back to my office.
As I tried out various strategies for revealing the truth about my life and my relationships, I discovered that it was much easier (and often more fun) to stop working so hard to break things down for other people. Over time I just stopped censoring anything (within reason!) that I said about my relationship, my partner, and all of the usual social topics shared with friends, acquaintances, family, and even strangers. If I’m talking about my partner, I say, “my partner” and I use the pronoun “she.” There – I’m out. It’s that easy.
If, for example, I need to hire a service person to fix my toilet, I will indicate that I may not be there, but I reference my partner, saying, “she will be when you arrive.” I don’t pause for permission or acceptance, and I don’t invite comments or feedback about my sexual orientation either. To do so would indicate that it matters to me what the plumber (not Joe) thinks about my relationship status – I’ve invited him to my house to fix my toilet, not to judge my relationship. I will not pretend I have a husband or that I am single so that the plumber feels more comfortable. Sadly, there was a time I would have, though.
I vote we raise the bar. Instead of striving to come out, let’s be more specific about this – let’s set our sights on the never ending process of being out.