People who come out (hereinafter referred to as "outcomers") tend to fall into two categories: the experienced, and the novice.That's the very first sentence of The Fine Art of Being Come Out To, and it contains one of the most important insights into what it means to come out. The first few times you come out, you are nervous, because you have no idea what kind of responses to expect. You are changing the way you present yourself, fighting the inertia of your own character. You may feel the need to sit someone down before confronting them and telling them your Big Secret.
Then you realize that there are a hundred other people in your life, and you don't have the time or energy to sit them all down one by one! You find out that most coming out experiences are anticlimactic. Soon you become really jaded, and lose track of who you're out to. Eventually, you only ever come out by off-hand references, and stop paying any attention to whether people pick them up. Or I should say, this all happened to me; I should stop pretending that I'm speaking for anyone else.
Hello, my name is miller, and I'm an experienced outcomer. I realize that I am speaking from a place of privilege. Not everyone has the opportunity to get where I am. And maybe some people don't even want to be where I am, which is their prerogative. But this is my experience.
In a way, I was already an experienced outcomer from the beginning. Several years previously, I had come out of the closet as atheist. When I discovered that I was asexual, I was extremely nervous and distressed, but I also knew what I had to do. I knew that I hated the closet. I knew who to come out to and how to find opportunity to do it. I knew what kinds of reactions to expect, and I knew most would be anticlimactic. I knew to try to let bad responses roll off my back. I knew that I was the kind of person who really benefited from a community after coming out.
Many months later, I determined that I was also gay. Since it was my third time around, I went from novice to jaded in record time.
As an experienced outcomer, I still have to come out all the time, but the game is changed. I'm always in this awkward position where I want to be out, but I don't want to make a big deal out of it. Sometimes, this means pretending that it is no big deal when it really is.
This is easy to do as gay. I generally don't ping people's gaydars, but it just comes up all the time without any effort on my part. For instance, people ask me what I do in my free time. I spend a lot of time hanging out at a queer-themed house. People ask me if I go to the city much. I don't anymore, but when I was dating, we went to several gay bars. What's more, I don't even need to talk to people to come out, because it's right there on my Facebook. The only people who will never know are my students, who I don't want knowing.
It's infinitely harder to come out as asexual. There is no A-dar. And it does come up in conversation, but not in a way that would be good to come out. For instance, people ask me if I think any of the guys are cute. This is the kind of situation where it would have good to be out already. I'm afraid of completely derailing a conversation. I'm afraid that a mere mention or off-hand reference would mislead more than enlighten. So I just say "no," which is true but misleading.
This is bad news for asexuals. No matter how privileged or empowered you are, there is a glass ceiling on being out. It always takes some effort to come out. If you want to be out to dozens of people, it all adds up. And if you spent that much effort on that many people, it would seem like it's all you ever talk about, perhaps because it is all you ever talk about.
And then I begin to question the value of coming out. Is it really worth all the silly drama? I need to be out as gay in order to have a nonzero chance of dating, but being out as asexual offers no such benefits. It's just, I feel unhappy when I'm closeted. I don't like the silent assumption that everyone has the same motivations. I don't like being ignored just because it is convenient. Is this irrational?
This is part of the reason I gravitate towards queer spaces. Usually they already have a baseline awareness of asexuality, so it's that much easier to just mention it. It's hard for me to keep track of who I'm out to, but the rule of thumb is that my straight friends know I'm gay, and my queer friends know I'm asexual. That's pretty much the best I can do, and I just learn to settle for it.