coming out stories

(this was written around 2003)

Even though I consider myself to be very comfortable with my sexuality, coming out to a straight friend is one of the most stressful things I have ever done, next to passing the bar exam.
This is my story about my coming-out experience to three friends of mine.  The first was Ichiro, who was a friend of mine in college.  The second was Takashi, a law school classmate.  The third was Austin, a coworker.
I had been friends with Ichiro for several months before I decided to tell him that I was gay.  He and I had many mutual friends, and we would all hang out together on the weekends.  For some reason, I choose to come out to him, and none of my other friends.  I wanted to be able to share that aspect of my life with him.
My biggest fear of telling Ich that I was gay was rejection.  I did not want to loose his friendship.  Ich was born in Japan and his family passed on Japanese values to him, so I did not know how he would react to having a gay friend.
I have never been good at coming-out to people in person, so I sent Ich a long e-mail, explaining my sexuality.  He sent me back a rather simple e-mail, stating that he interpreted my coming-out to him as an honor.  He assured me our friendship was not impacted at all.  I was very happy. And he was right, it had no negative impact on our friendship.
Several years later, in my first year of law school, I met Takashi. As we struggled through our classes, trying to understand what the judges were telling us in court cases, and learning how to be lawyers, Takashi became my best friend.
Like Ichiro, Takashi was born in Japan, and his values were traditionally Japanese.  I remembered my experience in coming-out to Ichiro, and I hoped Takashi would take it equally as well.  Ironically, Takashi and Ichiro went to the same high school, and knew of each other, although not very well.
I used the e-mail I sent to Ichiro as a model, and sent off an e-mail to Takashi.  A few hours later, his response came.  It was almost eerie in its similarity to Ichiro's response.  He too interpreted my coming-out as an honor, and did not question our friendship. My friendship with Takashi was not negatively impacted.
I have later reflected on if the "honor" of being come-out to is really an honor, or if that is just a polite way of responding to such a personal revelation.  Regardless, I interpreted it as a great response.
A few years later, I worked at a conservative but very large professional services corporation.  I could not imagine coming-out to any of my coworkers.  But nine months after I started working at the company, I met Austin.  He told me quite a bit about himself, and I regretted not being able to share details about my life with him.
I agonized for over a week about how to tell him.  In person was best, but I lacked the courage.  A letter might be found around the office.  E-mail had worked well in the past.  Finally, I built up the courage to tell him in person.
I invited him to dinner one weekend, with the plan to tell him.  He came over to my house, and I gave him a quick tour of the downstairs.  It should have been apparent from my house that I'm gay, but I wasn't sure if he figured it out or not. I didn't have the courage to tell him at that point.  We went to a restaurant and had dinner.  I still lacked the courage to tell him.
Ironically, we talked about gay culture during dinner.  On our walk to the car after dinner, once again I wanted to tell him, but lacked the courage.  I would have had more courage if I could have identified a reason to come-out to him, because I don't usually believe in coming-out just for the sake of coming-out.  But I couldn't come up with a good enough reason to overcome my fear.
I had invited Austin to join my date and another gay couple to go see a theatre production in San Francisco the following week.  I owed it to Austin to come out to him by then, so that he would not be surprised, and possibly disturbed, when it would be obvious.  The night of the event came, and I had still managed to not yet figure out a way to tell him.  The five of us had dinner, and the dinner discussion would have been obvious to anyone that 4 of us were gay.

At the show that night, I leaned over to Austin and asked, "So, are you surprised or disturbed?"  I didn't specify about what, because I knew he knew.  He said, "No, because I already knew."  I was relieved.
A few days later, back at work, I sent an e-mail apologizing to Austin for deceiving him earlier in our friendship, and hoping that he was ok with everything.  He assured me he was, and said he looked forward to our friendship.
That weekend, I went to the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade, and reflected on my coming-out experiences.  I wish I had more courage, and that I could simply tell the truth when asked if I had a girlfriend, or if I was married.  I wish I could say it, and not have to e-mail it.  I wasn't there yet.  But I was happy to have the straight friends I have, who have shown me time and time again that they value me as a person.

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