Coming Out, Then and Now (and Later!)

Take five minutes today and listen to a couple gay Ellens talk about their coming-out experiences. Ellen Page came out very recently; Ellen DeGeneres, of course, came out nearly twenty years ago.

Two things I took away from this clip: one, Page thanks DeGeneres for coming out when she did, which made it easier for everyone who came after her. Think about that for a moment, about the people in your life who came out before you and have made it easier, and about the people who will come after and be inspired by your example (if you’ve come out).

For me, it was a mixed bag. I came out to my friends before Ellen was out, and none of our friends was gay at the time. But I trusted them enough to know that they would be okay with it. And in my office at the time, my manager had come out to me, which made it easier for me to come out to her, later. (That story is kind of funny, actually: she and I were on an orientation trip together as the new people in the office, and she bought a souvenir for someone whose gender remained mysterious. Then she got roses in the office, and finally I felt comfortable enough to ask her about her partner, and she felt comfortable enough to tell me. Years later, in a new workplace, the roles were reversed with another of my managers, who noticed my evasive gender-hiding around Kit and figured it out.) So there were people who’d come out before me and had made me feel more confident about revealing that part of myself to them. And of course, the furry fandom was a huge part in my confidence about coming out. I was out to furries before I was out to anyone else I knew, and the casual acceptance of everyone’s sexuality was (and is) one of the extraordinary things about the fandom (cue plug for Keovi’s and my OJST comic ;).

Most of us don’t get a single coming-out moment, like the Ellens did and like Dev does in “Out of Position.” Most of us come out over and over again to different groups of people. I came out to my friends probably about a decade before coming out to my family, and then again to co-workers, other friends, other relatives.

And now, like Ellen Page, the position I’m in has allowed many many young people to open up to me about the struggles they’re having with their sexuality. Many of the letters are joyful to read, about people who have overcome their fears to have a better life; some of the letters are heart-rending, written by people who feel trapped in their life and just need someone to be that person who’s gone before. I try to respond to every one, because as Ellen says, it is a real privilege to be able to share these moments with people, and honestly it’s one I’d never expected to have. I just thought I was going to write a few sexy books and that the letters I’d get would mostly be detailing how often people had whacked off to them (I get those, too). But the stories I’ve written have led me to so many more, and I’m grateful to everyone who’s had the courage to write me for sharing their stories with me.

So yeah. If you’ve come out, then you’ve done a great thing for your friends and family and maybe future friends and family who will be a little more secure because you’re out. If you’re not out yet, then courage. Someday you’ll make it. And if you’re straight, I’m going to assume you’re an ally because hey, you’re reading this gay fox blog, so thank you for making your gay friends and family comfortable with who they are. You might not realize how immense of a gift that is, but I think Ellen (DeGeneres) says it best when she says, “We all have secrets.” Giving someone the confidence to share their secret with you is a wonderful gift, and it pays forward in ways you may never even know.




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