Coming Out Of The Closet Isn't A One-Stop Shop, It's An Ongoing Process

by Rebekah Wood

I've never been too concerned with what others think of me. I'm not afraid to be naked in front of people, dance in public or speak in front of a crowd. That's why I surprised myself by how nervous I was to tell my own mother I'm gay.

My hands were trembling on the steering wheel as I explained how my “roommate” was not just my roommate. Her silent response was super awkward, but also crushing. When we got home, she locked herself in her bedroom for two hours crying while I paced back and forth downstairs. When she finally resurfaced, she hugged me tighter and longer than I ever remember her hugging anyone and I thought, I came out of the closet. It's finally over.

Wrong. One of the biggest misconceptions about coming out of the closet is that it's a singular occurrence. A one-stop shop. Wam, bam, thank you, ma'am! I thought I would drop the lesbian bomb on my family and then wash my hands of it forever. In reality, coming out to my mom only opened the floodgates to a million more situations that would require me to come out of the closet again and again... and again.

Coming out means having to answer to questions like, “Well, what is your grandmother going to say?” and, “Have you told your four siblings? What do they think of this?!” Or better yet, “What about all of your friends?” There's also this delightful comment: “Don't even bother telling your father!”

I quickly realized that this would be an uphill battle. I was looking at a lifetime of people assuming I was straight until I set the record straight… and by straight, I mean gay. Pretty perplexing, wouldn't you say?

It doesn't help that I'm generally an awkward human being, especially when it comes to expressing myself and letting people in. Needless to say, coming out of the closet repeatedly isn't on my top ten list of favorite things to do. I recently got a “lesbian haircut” thinking it would stop people from immediately assuming I'm straight, but it somehow only works about 39 percent of the time.

Every time a situation calls for me to come out of the closet yet again, I get that pre-diarrhea-nervous punch in the gut. You know the feeling -- it's not good. For example, my stomach roiled when I started a new job and had to come out to my coworkers, when I went to my friend's Thanksgiving meal and had to answer to her obscure and homophobic aunt, when the woman doing my manicure wouldn't stop asking me if I have a boyfriend... The list goes on and on.

The point is, having to constantly come out of the closet to a wide array of people can be exhausting. That is one of the many reasons why LA Pride -- or really any Pride weekend -- is such an exciting and celebrated time for gay people. Pride is like an emotional vacation from having to worry about awkward conversations, kissing my girlfriend in public or not being ladylike. Pride is the one time and place where everyone is assumed to be L, G, B, T, Q, I, or A and that's the way it should be.