When we discover that we’re attracted to the same sex, one of the first things we have to do is decide whether or not we should tell other people. Of course, this is a decision which follows us through our lives – just because all our friends know, that doesn’t mean our families know; and just because our families know, that doesn’t mean we’ve told the people we work with. But even so, there is a core question at the heart of this about how many people we tell – about how ‘out’ we are.
To listen to a lot of the gay press and media, you’d think that the very best situation to be in is where you are out to absolutely everybody and have ‘no secrets’. The way this story is told, being ‘completely out’ means you are free to be ‘the real you’ and are free from all the anxieties and stresses of keeping secrets from people. But is this really true for everyone?
Of course, everyone is living in their own life with their own specific situation. It’s sometimes obviously unwise to come out to family or work colleagues because it would make things difficult – or (sadly) even dangerous. And even if we are ‘fully out’, there’s little point in telling the server at our local cafe about our sexuality… unless we’re after a date. But even if they know that family would be fine with it, or that there’d be no trouble at work, some people choose not to tell.
So if being ‘out’ is so great, why might some people choose to be (mostly) ‘in’?
For some people, it’s just not that important – or not important enough to build an identity around. Maybe there are lots of things in their lives which are more important to them than who they want to sleep with. And maybe they know that the people in their lives would look at them differently if they ‘came out’, even though they’d be the same old person inside.
Other times, it can be because the ‘gay world’, as it’s presented in media and in the Pride parades, isn’t something they feel they’re part of, or want to associate with. This is a world which can be very flamboyant, full of rainbows and music by divas – and if you’re not the kind of person who wants to be flamboyant, or who likes classical music, or rock or reggae – it can seem that being ‘out’ has nothing to offer at all.
So what’s the best option?
Ultimately it all comes down to you and the person you are, and the life you live – and want to live. While being out is great (trust me!), it’s not for everyone – even if they have the opportunity to be. The most important thing is for you to live the life the way you want to live it, and not be pushed into either direction by people who think they know what’s best for you.