Coming Out: Secrets and revelations in a culture of callouts and tell-alls

By Firas Abboud

Illustration by Ariana Maralit

No, no. This is not an article about me coming out. There is no need for that. When you see me in person, you will instantly know I’m gay. All it takes is one look, really. Picture this, a six-footer wearing matte red lipstick and whose nails are painted glossy red. Would you even think twice?

I consider myself lucky that I do not need to come out. Oftentimes, I’d even joke about coming out. It starts with putting on a serious face. Then, I tell my friends that I have big news—I’m gay. Oh, it never fails to get a lot of laughs.

You see, coming out has never been an issue for me. I never thought of it as a hurdle I had to overcome. I find it easy to make a joke out of it. It was only until recently, however, that I realized coming out should not be a joking matter. More important, I realize that while coming out may not be a big deal to me, it means the world to someone else.

More than a sake of formality

A few months ago, a good friend of mine came out to me. We were having coffee when he said he had something to tell me. When he told me he was gay, I was shocked. I wasn’t shocked that he was gay. I was shocked because he felt he needed to tell me.

I told him I always knew. I thought he did as well. When I asked him why he had to come out, he told me he just had to. I responded by saying that I get it. I get that he had to do so out of formality. Clearly, I did not get it at all.

He told me that coming out was so much more than stating the obvious. Being able to say it out loud silenced the voices in his head. He had to say it out loud for him to believe it. Coming out also silenced the people around him who kept asking him whether he was gay or not.

It is a process

Speaking of being gay or not, when I was a college freshman, one of my closest friends, also gay, and I kept going back and forth whether this classmate of ours was gay or not. Eventually, we came to a decision that he was, indeed, gay. I recall us asking so many questions—leading questions with the intention of nudging this classmate of ours to come out.

In our defense, we tried to make him come out because we wanted him to feel that there was nothing wrong with being gay. He kept denying it, which made us frustrated because we were really convinced that he was gay.

Just last year, however, this classmate of ours came out. We were right from the start, yes, but it didn’t feel like a victory at all. Looking back, I feel so ashamed for what we did. We failed to acknowledge that coming out was a process, a process that was personal. We were wrong for trying to convince our classmate to come out. It wasn’t our decision to make. This has led me to realize that there’s no deadline for coming out.

Easier said than done

Like I said earlier, I never felt the need to come out. When I realized I was gay in college, I didn’t have to hide it. I never went inside the closet, let alone get close to it. Since it was easy for me, I assumed it must have been easy for everyone else. After all, I had a lot of gay friends at the time.

Thankfully, as I grew older and started dating, my perspective changed. I listened to different coming out stories—some happy, some sad. There are some coming out stories, however, that have not been told. I have conversations with guys online who choose to be anonymous because they are still afraid of coming out. They are afraid of not fitting in. They are afraid of what their families might say. They are afraid of what society might say. They are afraid of who they truly are. I can’t imagine what they are going through.

I know I can’t speak for those who are in the closet, but I will try to speak for those people who are outside. It is okay to stay inside. Take all the time you need, but please don’t take forever. There is power in acceptance. There is power in owning your truth. There is power in showing your rainbow colors.

It’s easier said than done, I know. There is just a lot of pressure, now more than ever. If you decide not to come out, then that’s okay. After all, you don’t owe that to anyone. Can you promise me one thing, though? Can you promise me that you will come out to at least one person? You just need to come out to one person—yourself.