If you want us Out, you have to let us in

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Indy Lifestyle Online
I SUSPECT the main reason many heterosexuals, liberal and teeny- tiny-minded alike, recoil at the idea (and ideal) of Coming Out - so hectoring, so blatant, so blah, blah, blah - is that it returns the straight folks' problems with homosexuality right back to them. Instead of the previously timid fag having to tip-toe around a certain subject, lie about what he did at the weekend and monitor every word from his mouth so each reference to a partner is non-gender specific (that is, if he doesn't own an imaginary girlfriend), it's the breeding classes who must now mind their P's and Q's and learn to adapt. Or not.

Coming Out is no guarantee of acceptance, though it's a fairly safe bet for increased peace of mind. Either way, straights are obliged to experience just the merest measure of the psychic pressure - 800 pounds to the square inch - that the closeted daily endure. Here, have some paranoid self-consciousness on us. This can cause resentment, but it's only fair. Well, Coming Out is a straight invention.

This is why. Homosexuality is only an issue because heterosexuality deems it so. If heterosexuality were to budge up, make a little room and stop creating such a big fuss about what boys do with boys then gays wouldn't have to either lurk in the shadows - boring - or make an announcement/statement/campaign of their sexuality - boring and exhausting, though not, as boring and exhausting as permanent pretence. If heterosexuals bridle at Coming Out, they have no one but themselves to blame. And if they want Coming Out to go away, it's easily done. Yawn: share those lovely rights and privileges. I personally promise that the Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name will shut up the second the playing field is level.

All patently obvious. As obvious as heterosexuals making noises about their sexuality almost every time they speak, no worries: the hubby, the wife and the kids crop up constantly and no one snorts about - such a prissy, faux objection - turning the private life into a public spectacle. Obvious, except it isn't. Coming Out - being open, being honest - apparently requires continuous exposition.

How else to explain the following: "This House Believes That Staying In is The New Coming Out." This is the topic the Cambridge Union Society addresses on May 7, according to the fax that arrived on my desk yesterday. The fax is, of course, deliberately worded for (heated) debate, and worth quoting : "Faced with an ever-increasing acceptance of homosexuality, is it really necessary to 'Come Out'? What are the benefits of making such a public and seemingly irreversible declaration? Is it still necessary to define your self-identity by your sexual identity? Recent media coverage has focused upon those who have decided to 'Come Out' in reverse and we are left wondering whether membership of a 'gay' community is still a relevant and desirable prerequisite for life as a homosexual."

Every bald assertion and brassy assumption is a bloom one longs to linger over, but let's hurry along: "Is it still necessary to define your self- identity by your sexual identity?" What a tidy reversal! As noted, it's heterosexuals who mostly define homosexual self-identity as sexual, only to experience unease and/or disgust with the imposed. Fags know homosexuality is about more than what goes where, even as they leapfrog each available trick. Coming Out is at least partially meant to act as a corrective: if you know a known fag you may observe that his life is as complete or incomplete - as dully human - as your own. The personal is political, etc.

That's certainly one "benefit of making such a public declaration", though we must now ask what public is and what a declaration amounts to. Is Coming Out to your family public? To your friends? Or does only the workplace count? Do you decide to be out in some areas of your life, in in others (Mummy has a bad heart, Daddy is doddery)? Must you be Out to everyone or to a chosen few? Is a "declaration" wearing short, checked leather chaps to the office party or casually mentioning you're mad about a boy at the water cooler? Not Coming Out, but Leaking Out, which is what it really should be titled as that's how the process usually happens. What's often forgotten is that Coming Out is not just a choice, but multiple- choice. It is seldom the magical, total, overnight transformation the Cambridge Union overstates and some gay headbangers yet demand: here fear and fundamentalism make strange bed fellows, and an impossible challenge - Come Out and watch troubles melt away. Actually, Coming Out finishes one thing and kickstarts another: it's a step, not a conclusion. Is Coming Out easier these days? Depends on circumstance, no matter chatter about "ever-increasing acceptance." CO may be less of a big deal, but that doesn't render CO "unnecessary".

Whatever happens, homosexuality will never be the standard. Coming Out of some sort will always be required. Perhaps one day it will be considered as natural as, say, puberty; however, that time is far away. Until then it's up to Cambridge I guess, obliged to patently explain (again) that Coming Out on a Friday doesn't mean that the Saturday post will harbour an invitation to join the Community - whatever that is - and that Coming Out in reverse is cool. So sometimes closets have revolving doors.

Gays are generally better at that sort of contradiction/detour/ phase/lark than heterosexuals, who still have to grasp the fact that gays can set the moral lesson (or practise moral blackmail) but that they, not we, are the only ones who can make This House Believe That Staying In Is The New Coming Out.

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