Coming out – and the ‘mini-out’ phenomenon
When you’re finally ready to make the massive leap to come out, it’s thought that once you step out of the closet, that’s it, you’re out…Yo world! I’m a big gay lezza!
Chance would be a fine thing.
Of course, coming out to the most important people in your life is the hardest thing of all but then you have to deal with what I am going to dub ‘mini-outs’. As you go through life, you meet new people and the inevitability of having to reveal your sexuality comes up time and time again; you have to mini-out. Well, you don’t have to, but I like waving my rainbow flag. Dyketastic.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to correct the gender assumption when asked if I have a boyfriend/husband. This isn’t a winge, merely an observation I am articulating through the medium of blog. Get me, sounds almost fancy that.
It struck me recently just how often I’ve had to de-Narnia in my life. Whenever I start a new job or enter a situation with new people, I know what’s coming, I know I’ll have to mini-out at some point.
Like I say, I have no problem with my sexuality. I’m very lucky that I’ve never encountered anything negative when outing myself to new people. But despite pride in my persuasion, it still brings up the tiny flutter of butterflies in my cavernous tum. But not massive chuff-off mutant moth flaps like the first time, thank f*ck.
The trickiest bit of navigation is when I’m asked if I have a ‘partner’. Argh! No gender assumption. Does that mean they think I might be gay or that ‘boyfriend’ might be patronising because I’m getting on a bit?
It pains me to admit it but sometimes I assess the situation in terms of whether I can be bothered. Not for lack of pride, just laziness. During these moments I always have the slight dilemma of whether to say no and leave it there or wonder whether they are inviting me to pride-it-out. If I leave it at a simple no, the trouble is that I may later be seen as having evaded my gayness. Or, as a singleton, I could shoehorn in a clumsy ‘no, I’ve not met the right woman yet’. Ew.
I guess because I’m what you call a ‘femme lesbian’, people assume I’m straight so I’m often met with surprise when I reveal my inner gay. When I worked in a community centre, there a woman who was, how shall I put it, controversial regarding her right-wing opinions. I would often challenge her on these views. It mostly consisted of racism but at times there were hints of homophobia. She claimed not to have a problem with ‘the gays’ but her choice of words sometimes contradicted that. It was part wanting to keep professional boundaries and part cowardice that I kept my sexuality to myself.
For some reason she took a shine to me and would always ask if I was ‘courting’. I would answer honestly with a yes or a no and then change the subject. One day she asked again and pressed me about my taste in fellas. At that point I felt secure that if all hell broke loose, I had the support of my colleagues, all of whom were perfectly fine with my sexuality.
So I thought ‘bugger this’ and told her men weren’t my type.
She took a moment to process this information and instead of backing away slowly she was completely fine. In fact, she seemed to like me more. Although from that moment on she was forever asking me if I’d met a woman and overcompensating her ok-ness with homosexuality in my presence.
I’m aware that I’m very lucky in that respect. I know plenty of people where the experience of coming out hasn’t been good. I count myself incredibly fortunate. Recently though I’ve noticed a funny thing which, from speaking to others, nobody can relate to. It comes when you meet people in life who you can tell aren’t really bothered about getting to know you. You know those kinds of people, right? The painful awkwardness is exacerbated when you’re thrown together without means to escape and the customary awkward pleasantries eek out in a stunted painfest. My reserve peaks as I yearn to shrivel up and die.
The conversation is slow and so very, very, painful. That is until I have to inevitably affirm ‘actually I’m a lesbian’.
For some reason this simple statement suddenly piques their intrigue. From that moment on I am interesting. Suddenly, I’m worthy of their attention and they insist we should go out gay and get smashed. Because the gays are good for a night out you see. It’s very strange. I kinda like to hope that outside of my sexuality I’m an interesting person, but hey, I guess it says more about them than it does me.
When you think about it, everyone has to deal with mini-outs in their lives, irrespective of sexuality. It could be anything about yourself that you’re worried may prejudice people or force them to judge you. I have friends who say they carefully assess situations before revealing aspects of their backgrounds, not because there is anything to be ashamed of, simply for fear that certain people in society will make unjust assumptions.
Nevertheless, mini-outs occur everywhere. It could be as simple as having to ‘out’ your chosen profession.
Imagine if you were a traffic warden:
What do you do for a living?
I’m a traffic enforcement officer.
So here’s to the mini-outs – you tricky little life-bastards you.
Main image by Precinct Seager Galvez-Soto
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