A friend I will call Somto and I were talking about coming out, as a topic. Naturally, I brought up the most recent piece I had published here on Glowrite. His face folded into bemusement as he read the piece through the screen of his phone. Then he put his expression of bemusement into words. He said: “Are you really the one that wrote this?” The tone of his voice held admiration, like he had meant to say “You are becoming mature.” I feigned being offended by his question. I wanted him to express what he meant by it. As he explained his understanding of the piece, it became clear I had spell out one point: I do not support staying in the closet.
In 2014, a friend of mine told me he was bisexual. I scoffed when his words came to me – clearly he was lying to himself. I knew him enough to know that he was a flaming homosexual. But as I observed the process of calling forth mental evidence pointing to the nature of his sexuality unfold, I realized I was partaking in an act I often found myself telling my heterosexual friends to defer from doing: I was positioning myself as an authority into knowing the inner life of another human being. So, for example, a straight friend would say to me something along the line of, “You can’t be attracted to guys. You are a guy.” And I would find myself push back their pseudo-command over knowing the content of my inner life. Yet here was I positioning to know the inner workings of my friend’s life, here was I thinking of my friend: “You can’t be attracted to guys and girls. You are a gay guy.”
If there is one thing I truly believe, it is no one can serve as an authority in knowing and spelling out the inner life of another human being. And this was the implicit thesis forwarding my previous post: We should hold more generous interpretations of those we are prone to subject to scorn, because we are oblivious about the (full) content of their (inner) lives.
To say I don’t support staying in the closet might suggest I am a supporter of coming out. I know Somto got this sense when I made the distinction. But I tend to fail to see coming out as an either/or option, because it often starts off from a place suggesting all gay men find themselves in closets and have the duty to break out from its bound doors. This start-off point is valid to some extent, but it is neither definite nor definitive. Coming out is a complicated process that deserves individualistic attacks aimed at the problems that warrant for it. Also, it’s worthy to note: the closet analogy is not applicable to every gay man. Some gay men are clueless about what it means to be closeted.
Somto and I both grew in our discussion on coming out. One useful take away, as (implicitly) suggested in the previous Glowrite entry, was this: It can be useful to say live your truth but we are better off with a superior advice. The one that goes, know yourself. It is important we know the circumstances within which we operate and act accordingly (with a bend towards doing the right thing). And to be alive to the reality that the circumstances within which others operate are by definition different from ours.