Respecting The Coming Out Process

My memories are normally tainted, marred like misty windows, but this one is vivid, was and still is. I saw him for the first time and my heart stopped. Something happened within me, something that can be characterized as a crush. It was 1998 and Ricky Martin had found a way towards the living room of my house through the the World Cup.

He came on frequently before and after matches. There was something suave about him, endearing, attractive, magnetic; he seemed so pure, so beautiful, a man I had never seen before – where there are no Latinos in Tanzania. He was godsend. My obsession with latinos started here.

I was 12 years old.

Fast forward a couple of years. Speculations about his sexuality were rampant and when he finally came out, I had to unfriend a girl on Facebook, a girl that my friends thought I had hooked up with, at a time when I wasn’t out even to myself, at a time when she was a convenience than a reality.

When Ricky came out, she commented on Facebook “come on! Old news, we all knew he was gay.”

I unfriended her not because of my political-ness but because of a possible reality that she might have been homophobic; a reality that was unfounded to some degree. Her statement didn’t outright declare her homophobia or lack of. But I severed ties. I disconnected. I didn’t like her anymore. She was the reality that I was running away from.

I have finally managed to crack why I unfriended her after reading Embracing a Gay Identity. We need to respect people’s coming out processes. She didn’t. Most don’t.

Perez Hilton has been known in the past to out celebrities. He took it upon himself to make sure that any celebrity rumored to be gay was outed. There is a push to come out. If you are gay you have to come out, you need to come out. If you don’t then you are lying, you have internalized homophobia. You are what it is wrong with the gay community. Closetedness. You are doing a disservice to the gay movement.

Gays who are out wants others to come out. Gays want everyone to come out as gay. Some gays want heterosexuals to come too. The usual suspects.

Come out Tom Cruise. Come out Will Smith. Come out John Travolta. Come out Bruno Mars. Come out 50 Cent. Come out Oprah Winfrey. Come out Vin Diesel. Come out Kevin Spacey. Come out James Franco. Come out Kelly Clarkson.

Come out everyone!

I have been asked by many people why I haven’t told my parents about my sexuality. Many don’t understand, especially those from Europe and U.S. I am lying to myself they tell me, I am living a big lie. I try to explain the complexities and a different paradigm that exist in my part of the world. They don’t see it. They see my life as a lie. If they had the opportunity some might even contact my parents and let them know of the pervasive homosexuality of their son.

We want people to come out; to face up to the music; to be true to themselves (to the truth we think is universal).

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Fucking wrong!

I have learned something important reading Embracing a Gay Identity. People go through stages in order to come out (if they are to come out. If they want to come out. If they ever come out).

Denial – Anger – Bargaining – Depression – Acceptance

Some take a long time and others briskly pass through them in a year. But we somehow deal with our coming out processes through the lenses of the above equation – you can’t reach acceptance if you haven’t dealt with anger. You can’t be depressed and finally come to terms that even God won’t save you from your homosexuality if you haven’t bargained with him about being a good boy if he makes you ‘normal’.

Some stages are harder for others; some stages take a long time, some stages are not. People take years to come out. People come out to some people and not others. Some retrace their coming out process when the pressures from family becomes too much to handle. Others get stuck in a stage.

What does coming out even mean? Do you come out to yourself or others? What is more important?

Every time you tell someone about your sexuality, you are coming out. People come out to their doctors on their deathbeds when the doctors see them holding the hand of their partners. We area always coming out.

I am digressing.

What I was trying to capture with this is that outing someone is like forcing a seven-month pregnant woman to give birth. Or a six-month. Or a one-month. It won’t go well. It is not supposed to. Y0u can’t force people to accept themselves. You have to help them accept themselves, you have to help by creating a conducive environment for people to love themselves.

Coming out to your parents and relatives might be one of the most difficult processes ever. Why? If they reject you then you need to know that you will be able to fend for yourself, that you will be able to love yourself and create other meaningful connections. All these require energy. A person who hasn’t reached Acceptance stage doesn’t have the energy to deal with these challenges yet. They might even commit suicide if they have to. Life is hard folks, especially when you are not the status quo.

So out no anyone. Let them deal with their situations and narratives. When they are ready they will come out and Accept themselves. If you are gay and you feel this inkling to out someone because you believe this is a political movement of economies of scale then stop. You are not helping the movement.

And the biggest lesson of all, don’t invalidate people’s coming out by saying, “come on, we all knew you were a homo a long time ago.” As if to say that they shouldn’t have wasted their time to come out, to do something that mattered the most to them. As if coming out was a simple process for Ricky Martin.

I wish I could say to the girl, “leave Ricky Martin alone!”

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