The funny thing about coming out, is it never ends. People think you come out once and then everybody knows and it’s all fine. But of course there is coming out to everyone you know and then the continual coming out to everyone else you end up interacting with, forever, until you die.
In a way it’s much easier to come out to strangers. For the people you know, if like me you tell them when you are mid-thirties there is confusion as they know the past you. For example they always, everything since they knew you, knew your favourite colour was blue. Now you are saying, ‘you know what green is my favourite’ and they are all like, ‘why now, why green?’
With people that don’t know you, you can say ‘hi, nice to meet you, my favourite colour is green’ and they go, ‘cool.’
Well of course it’s not quite like that. You aren’t giving an anticipated response. It’s what I call, the tales from the unexpected. Outing yourself is not the expected response. I even have developed a habit associated with it. When I come out to someone to tell them and then keep talking so they have time to process it before they have to respond.
Most people are fine. One person even said ‘well done’. Some people’s voices go up quite high and some don’t seem to react at all.
It’s fine with new people I meet at work or socially. I am happy to tell them. It’s trickier sometimes with strangers you end up talking to, like shop assistants, waiters and taxi drivers. They make an assumption, will your ‘husband be joining you?’ and there, right there, you have a choice. You can correct them, or you can keep the conversation on it’s original trajectory and lie. It’s tricky. It’s an internal fight between wanting to stay honest, but not having to out yourself to a perfect stranger.
You won’t get into a taxi and say hello, can you take me to the rail station, or and by the way I’m straight.
I remember reading in an article or on the radio, Heather Peace telling a story of being picked up in a taxi and him making reference to her partner as a man. She choose to not correct him as she didn’t want to have to share that part of herself. She said looking back she regretted it.
And you’d think it would be easier when you are in a couple. You literally are a visual representation, however we have to remember most people are thinking you are straight. People also think they are being clever when I am out with a male gay married friend and they see our wedding ring and assume we are married. It’s made for many confusing and amusing conversations with shop and restaurant staff. ‘Your husband’s trousers are undone’ ‘Ok, well he’s not my husband but I’ll let him know’. I am sure I have left many place with staff wondering if I am having an affair with someone else’s husband!
Also, any gay couple will have no doubt experienced the front desk staff awkwardness when you try and checking into a hotel. The comments are often along the lines of ‘ah, I see we have a double room booked….with just one double bed (nothing like stating the obvious) will that be ok?’ and for some reason it’s harder with two gay couples (one male and one female) as they assume you are two straight couples. When the hotel staff see the girls go into one room and the men into the other it can be a real eye-opener.
My favourite was checking into a hotel in Florence on my honeymoon. They clearly decided my wife was a friend and my husband would be along at any minute. I mentioned I was on my honeymoon at every chance and it paid off when we got a room up-grade and a free bottle of champagne with a card congratulating Mr Davies on his recent marriage! Mr Davies never did show up but it didn’t stop me and the wife drinking the champagne.