Girding up and coming out

By Allie Smyth

True story: Gay guy comes out to all his friends and lives happily ever after. But is it really all fun and games?

Many men realize when they are young that they are gay, but for a myriad of different reasons, remain in "the closet" while continuing to balance a double life.

"When I was in the closet I was always afraid people would find out," said University of Calgary Gay and Lesbian Academic Students and Staff Co-Chair Paul Sereda. "It’s so obvious to everyone around you yet you think you are being sneaky."

Considering disclosure in a predominantly heterosexual society prompts mild anxiety in the most confident of gay men. Prevailing attitudes and first reactions can be cruel and fraught with misunderstanding as people cope with assumptions and stereotypes. However many find that when they do finally come out it is both anti-climactic and not as bad as they expected.

"It’s the difference between being unofficial and official," says Sereda. "Most people feel happier and more fulfilled when they come out, it’s not the weight of the world on their shoulders anymore."

For most gay men, it appears the overall experience of comming out is positive enough. However, every interaction with each person has the potential to turn ugly.

"The onus is always on the queer person [to come out]," says Religious Studies graduate student Brendan John Purdie. "If we get found out we are accused of lying, even though all we have done is not corrected assumptions. I regret having to deal with the shit and abuse from some hateful, ignorant people and the loss of friends, but I learned early on that I could not conform to what others would have of me."

One of the biggest impediments to coming out remains the grim possibility of a negative reaction from family and friends.

"Be sure that you are ready to deal with hatred, alienation and possible violence," advises Purdie. "You may have your whole life to come to grips with what you are [but] your parents, friends, and colleagues haven’t had that. Give them time to come around."

Purdie looks forward to a family life and a child, whom he plans to have "with his bestest dyke" when they are both ready. As gay people are currently unable to adopt in Alberta, arrangements like this seem the most logical way to begin a family. Purdie acknowledges that mainstream society misunderstands the validity and sincerity of love shared between people of the same sex and this can be a barrier to acceptance.

"The stereotype is that we don’t have meaningful connected relationships, and that we are promiscuous," he said.

All in all it appears that allowing yourself to be who you are in an honest way is an entirely liberating experience, regardless of oreintation.

"Being out for me is as much a political thing as a personal one," says Sereda. "Outing yourself puts a face to being gay, and it’s no longer ‘oh those fags out there,’ it becomes ‘me’ to them in their minds."

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