What Emily Post Never Taught You
September 19, 2006 9:55 PM   Subscribe

The Fine Art of Being Come Out To: A Straight Person's Guide to Gay Etiquette - yes, it's a bit dated, and no, I don't think too many people on MetaFilter need it. But it's a genre classic, with comprehensive coverage including advice for detailed coming out scenarios, weddings (both yours and theirs), and those ever-pesky language issues, all with good humor and a distinct lack of scolding.
posted by brett (55 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Fag!
posted by jimmythefish at 10:02 PM on September 19, 2006


I first saw this as "The Fine Art of Being Come On To." Thought it was advice for straight people when they got hit on by one of us. Lord knows our hilariously complex world could use that.

What I just read, though, seems like good, helpful, detailed advice - perfect for anyone who hasn't thought much about what coming out is like for their g/l/b/t friends and relatives, or about how they can help. Thanks, brett.

By the way, got an email directing me to this
posted by mediareport at 10:18 PM on September 19, 2006


(Er, ignore that last part, sorry.)
posted by mediareport at 10:19 PM on September 19, 2006


I find that the hardest part of being come out to is maintaining an appropriate appearance of interest in the emotional drama of the moment. Sometimes, it's all I can do to stifle a big ol' hetero yawn.
posted by paulsc at 10:29 PM on September 19, 2006


I think my brother was gay, but I'll never know. He never came out, and he drank himself to death.

For some, it's a dead serious business.
posted by Tube at 10:36 PM on September 19, 2006


I could have used this earlier. My most recent exchange went something like this:

"You're gay? Really? REALLY?? I TOTALLY never would have guessed. No, seriously, you seem 1000% straight. Hey, as long as we're sharing secrets, I guess I should tell you mine: I'm really, deeply sarcastic at innoportune times."

And that's why uncle Steve never spoke to me again.
posted by jonson at 10:36 PM on September 19, 2006 [2 favorites]


Always consult Judith Martin (aka 'Miss Manners') for questions of etiquette, who put this much more succinctly (and without all the self-involved drivel):

Dear Miss Manners: What do I say when I am introduced to a homosexual couple?

Gentle Reader: 'How do you do? How do you do?'

posted by trip and a half at 10:54 PM on September 19, 2006


Sometimes, it's all I can do to stifle a big ol' hetero yawn.

I hear ya, paulsc. In a way, this "advice" seems to belong to a bygone era when "coming out" was a big deal. Certainly it remains a big deal for some people, but for me hearing that someone is "teh gay" is about as remarkable (and as uninteresting) as someone telling me they are getting married, having a kid, or adopting a pet.

"Oh really? Bruce's gay? Good for him. What's for lunch?"
posted by three blind mice at 12:14 AM on September 20, 2006


LOL GAYS LOL PETS LOL MARRIAGE LOLOLOLOL
posted by phylum sinter at 12:33 AM on September 20, 2006


I probably need to forward this to my girlfriend. For some inexplicable reason she attracts "first time outcomers". Usually people she doesn't even know that well decide that she is the one to come out to. She has no problems with this (and actually finds it flattering), but is confused as to why...
posted by slimepuppy at 1:13 AM on September 20, 2006


Oh, and she's not gay.

'cause I'm all man, baby. Or whatever passes for masculine/hetero posturing these days.
posted by slimepuppy at 1:18 AM on September 20, 2006


"Oh really? Bruce's gay? Good for him. What's for lunch?"

Heh. When I came out to my dad, it was agonizing for me, but, he pretty much said, "Oh, ok. I'm fine with that. Are you hungry?"
posted by yoga at 4:54 AM on September 20, 2006


Meh.
posted by bardic at 4:54 AM on September 20, 2006


paulsc: I find that the hardest part of being come out to is maintaining an appropriate appearance of interest in the emotional drama of the moment.

Out of curiosity, what sorts of things do and don't count as "emotional drama" for you? It seems to me like, if you wanted to (not saying you do), you could dismiss a lot of stuff people go through under this banner: breakups, coping with addiction, depression....
posted by brett at 5:35 AM on September 20, 2006


I was just wondering the other day if people other than celebrities still Came Out. It's probably age on my part-- I'm old enough now that everyone I meet who is gay is already acknowledged as such.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:43 AM on September 20, 2006


Meh.

Why go to all the trouble of typing out your emo brain farts? Grown-ups break intellectual wind discretely.
posted by srboisvert at 5:54 AM on September 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


This is probably a good idea, but from my extremely limited experience, it may not strictly be neccessary. Oftentimes, straight folk have primitive gaydarthemselves or the closeted gay person is unconsciously sending up huge flares.

In college, I casually knew a dude named Efraim. Efraim was so flaming you could toast marshmallows off him from across a freeway. One day he pulled my friend Letty aside and said "I have something to tell you..."

My God, she thought, He's dying.

"What is it, Efraim?"

"I'm gay."

"And?"


Thought it was advice for straight people when they got hit on by one of us. Lord knows our hilariously complex world could use that.

I'm just flattered by it. (It happens to me a lot for some reason). Every straight guy should go to a gay bar and wait to see how he does. Not only is it culturally enlightening, it's useful. You'll get a clear picture of just how attractive you are, which you won't get as easily from women for a variety of reasons. Plus, if you do well, it's a really great ego boost.
posted by jonmc at 6:17 AM on September 20, 2006


I was surprised to find this listed as something it's none of your business to know:

whether s/he is out to his/her family

It's almost always been one of the things that's come up in conversation pretty rapidly after anyone's come out to me. It's also something that matters in terms of how I should act if I know their family.

One of my friends from high school came out to me a few years back while I was home visiting my parents. The subject of whether he was out to his family didn't come up in that instance. But the thing is, I know his family. And my parents know his family. And now I have no idea if I can mention his boyfriend to his parents (or to mine for that matter since they might mention it to his, etc). Unless the person you're talking to is the last person on Earth that you haven't come out to, who else you're out to seems like useful information for them.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:33 AM on September 20, 2006


Hmmph. Years and years ago, I stopped making "the announcement" and just started being who I was. That includes acting as if most people already knew I was gay.

"What are you doing this weekend?"
"We're taking my partner's mother to Sea World."
"Seen any good movies lately?"
"No, but I want to see World Trade Center. Anything with Nicholas Cage..."

...and so on.
posted by Robert Angelo at 6:39 AM on September 20, 2006


"... It seems to me like, if you wanted to (not saying you do), you could dismiss a lot of stuff people go through under this banner: breakups, coping with addiction, depression....
posted by brett at 8:35 AM EST on September 20 [+] [!]


brett, I suppose you're right. I do think many people get way too caught up in what they percieve as the central drama of their own lives, which usually aren't all that unique or captivating to others, and sometimes presume that what is vital interesting to them, about themselves, will be equally riveting to the rest of us.

I try to politely indulge them, if at all possible, because it's rarely worth the effort to disabuse them of the their conviction that they are somehow special. But if something like 1 in 10 people is gay, as the FPP article link asserts, it's not a "condition" of life that would be particularly special, is it? Hence my ho-hum attitude about "coming out drama."
posted by paulsc at 6:41 AM on September 20, 2006


approximately one in ten Americans is either gay or lesbian. And yet, to your knowledge, no one you know is homosexual. Since you know more than ten people, you can only assume that this is because your gay and lesbian acquaintances are still in the closet, at least relative to you.

Is this the same statistical reason that at least one person in my immediate family has to Chinese? Because I'm not so sure that's how it works.
posted by slimepuppy at 6:42 AM on September 20, 2006


approximately one in ten Americans is either gay or lesbian. And yet, to your knowledge, no one you know is homosexual.

Trust me, he knows somebody gay, he just dosen't know it yet.
posted by jonmc at 6:44 AM on September 20, 2006


In my experience, the best thing to do when someone comes out to you is to smash a pie into their face. It breaks the tension of the situation, gives you a moment to come up with a supportive thing to say, and reminds them that nothing in life is so serious that wearing a pie won't render it immediately and utterly ridiculous.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:51 AM on September 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


Chapter Two: The Crush-Induced Coming Out
I wish this were available for outcomers back in the late 70s early 80s. I was friends with two crush-induced outcomers (separated by vast geographical distances, so I never took this as some irresistable force of my attrativeness or personality). Maybe the vestiges of a free-swinging, free love society were still hanging in the air, but in both cases the conversations went something like:

Outcomer (O): I want to tell you something personal.
Me: OK
O: I'm gay
Me: OK
O: And right now, you've got my heart thumping.
Me: Wow. I'm flattered. You're a good friend so I feel I can tell you that I've not thought of you that way.
O: (deep sigh)

And then afterward each one moved within a few weeks, never to be heard from again. I'm sure this was not in reaction to me, I just missed these guys as friends. They quit jobs, broke leases and moved out of state. In the case of one, I think it was to get away from a breeder woman stalking him (seriously! she thought his protests of I'm Gay I'm Gay were feeble attempts to rebuff her). In the other, I dunno. He was very drunk and may have said that to everyone at the party male or female. I think he had a bad parental reaction and moved to San Francisco.

But after reading this guide, I think if they had come out & not paired it to a crush, we might still be friends.
posted by beelzbubba at 6:53 AM on September 20, 2006


I was just wondering the other day if people other than celebrities still Came Out.
Yeah, they do. Of course, the last time it happened to me personally was fifteen years ago.


posted by Karmakaze at 6:57 AM on September 20, 2006


Another point. This guide is 10 years old and extremely America-centric. Make of that what you will, but the "Chapter 3: Beyond Coming Out" section does not apply to a lot of places in Europe. Especially re: weddings.

Which just makes me feel really bad for all the gay people stuck in America.
posted by slimepuppy at 7:05 AM on September 20, 2006


I think it was to get away from a breeder woman stalking

What the hell is a "breeder" woman? Some kind of homonculoid female?

And, on topic, no one comes out about being gay anymore. They come out about being into LARPing.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:06 AM on September 20, 2006


Which just makes me feel really bad for all the gay people stuck in America.

On behalf of Americans, and those of us in New Jersey in particular - we're working on fixing that error.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 7:10 AM on September 20, 2006


the gay people stuck in America.

now this sentence is running through my head to the tune of that 'America,' from West Side Story.
posted by jonmc at 7:13 AM on September 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


jonmc...

Coffee -> monitor

And I have that song stuck in my head now.
posted by slimepuppy at 7:39 AM on September 20, 2006


In college, I casually knew a dude named Efraim. Efraim was so flaming you could toast marshmallows off him from across a freeway.

That's so odd, me too. One time I was sitting there with my friend on the wall outside the cafeteria and Efraim came scoootching and sashaying and vouging by wearing some crazy linen overalls and sandals with feathers and beads and flowers woven into his dreads (Homeboy was ON all the time) and I turned and said,

"Do you think that guy's gay?" and my friend said,

"Yeah, either that or part bird."

It's so weird when people tell me they are gay, because I either already know or how could it possibly matter? I guess if I was offering to fix someone up with a member of the opposite sex then my reaction would be something other than "Nice, it's your round." I guess I'd have to be more like "Oh, sorry, I don't know any single gay people 'cause I live in park slope and all my gay friends are married lesbians."
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:43 AM on September 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


Heh. Somebody needs to write new lyrics.
posted by jonmc at 7:46 AM on September 20, 2006


About ten years ago a friend of mine told me she was gay.

"I'm usually very cheerful myself," I said.

And then I thanked her, because I had been saving up that line for years, just to use in a moment like that.

Because it's all about me, you see.

(Yes, she found it amusing, and no, I wouldn't have used the line if she wouldn't have been the sort of person to find it amusing.)
posted by jscalzi at 7:50 AM on September 20, 2006


One time I was sitting there with my friend on the wall outside the cafeteria and Efraim came scoootching and sashaying and vouging by wearing some crazy linen overalls and sandals with feathers and beads and flowers woven into his dreads

Definitely not the same Efraim. My Efraim was a skinny PR from the Bronx with a wispy mustache who wore black nailpolish.
posted by jonmc at 7:50 AM on September 20, 2006


I'm old enough now that everyone I meet who is gay is already acknowledged as such

That's one of those statements that make gay people smirk just a little inside.
posted by digaman at 7:54 AM on September 20, 2006


I live halfway between a world where coming out is so commonplace as to evoke no reaction whatsoever, and a world where people risk being exiled or hurt by coming out under the wrong circumstances. So while I agree that this seems funny to anyone with real life-experience, keep in mind that there are many, many places in the US where sites like this have the power to blow minds and change lives.

I had to wait until I was prepared to have to leave home before coming out to my friends in the tiny town in AZ that I'm from. Word travels fast. At points afterward, kids from school would call me at home to tell me that they were going to come over and drag me out of my house and beat me up. I was afraid to ask my parents for help, because that would mean telling them.

Places in the west and southwest US are still really scary places for gays to live: many miles between cities, hundreds of miles from cultural outposts, no privacy or anonymity, and the law is not on your side. Thanks for posting this!
posted by hermitosis at 8:19 AM on September 20, 2006


Trip and a half, the sainted Miss Manners said in response to a question directly dealing with people coming out, that you respond the same way to coming out as to any other disclosure of personal information;

How nice for you.

This was way too much work to wade through, perhaps because I got over this 20 years ago.
posted by QIbHom at 8:48 AM on September 20, 2006


>I'm old enough now that everyone I meet who is gay is already acknowledged as such

That's one of those statements that make gay people smirk just a little inside.


Naturally, I didn't mean the people who are in denial about it. If you're gay, in your 30's, living in this area and deliberately hiding it, you are not out to yourself yet. Which is different than being in the closet.

Actually, if I were gay and living in Massachusetts, I might be closeted. Just to prevent hearing that patronizing "You're gay? Oh, that is so AWESOME! Good for you!" crap when the proper response is "whatevah."
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:04 AM on September 20, 2006


I grew up around all kinds of people with all kinds of sexual behaviors/preferences, and I don't think anybody ever really gerbilled. Perhaps to fight that kind of propaganda some Mefites could link to articles about very strange-sounding sexual practices actually engaged in by man+woman hookups. (And I know some of you already know it all already; what I want is ammo to counter bigots with.)

And by the way, how can a person be "not out to oneself yet"? Doesn't one know what one likes? If you don't know what you like maybe you don't like anything, "more a- than gay". Or are you talking essentialist Identity claptrap? (I'm 1/8 Cherokee; do I need to run around half-naked in the woods 1/8 of the time?)
posted by davy at 9:11 AM on September 20, 2006


I'm 1/8 Cherokee; do I need to run around half-naked in the woods 1/8 of the time?

For sure.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:20 AM on September 20, 2006


Just warn us when you do it, so I can have my safety goggles ready.
posted by jonmc at 9:22 AM on September 20, 2006


Years and years ago, I stopped making "the announcement" and just started being who I was. That includes acting as if most people already knew I was gay. - Robert Angelo

Me too. Of course it's a bit different for me, because it isn't my orientation I'm talking about, it's my Mom's. But still, I used to have Big Talks with friends and do the pronoun dance and all that. Because as a kid I suffered more direct discrimination and abuse because of it than my Mom ever has. (A best friend in grade school that was forbidden to ever speak to me again when her mother found out, for example).

In high school (about 10 years ago now) I decided that it's not my problem if they have a problem with it, and stopped with the Announcement. Maybe it's a coincidence, but when I stopped making a big deal of it, it stopped being as big of a deal. Everyone once in a while I'll be talking to someone I don't know that well (a new co-worker, a friend of a friend) and they'll notice the pronoun I'm using and do a double take. This is very rare now, but it does happen. Depending on my mood I'll either ignore their confusion or I'll toss in a quick explanatory "yeah, she's gay" and move on. It's so freeing.
posted by raedyn at 9:34 AM on September 20, 2006


I'm 1/8 Cherokee; do I need to run around half-naked in the woods 1/8 of the time?

How about 1/8 naked all of the time?
posted by InfidelZombie at 10:04 AM on September 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


aren't most of us at least 1/8th naked most of the time? The face has got to be at least 1/8th of the skin area, right? I think davy will have to go further.
posted by jonmc at 10:15 AM on September 20, 2006


Yeah, the part about feigning surprise was where I (apparently) screwed up, though I haven't had anyone come out to me in years.
Two seperate guys from my high school class came out to a group of us and were incredibly disappointed when no one was surprised. For one of them, my lack of surprise was probably tied to being one of the last of the group to formally find out, though I'd just always assumed he was out. I am always kinda amazed by the parents who are fooled.
"Y'know, when Mike described Leonardo DiCaprio as 'totally dreamy,' that might have been a tipoff..."
Similar experience with a crush-induced outcoming from an internet pal that I had visited on a roadtrip around the US. I just didn't know how to take it, and we lost touch. I tried to be supportive, but it's hard when, y'know, ya just don't like them that way. He was a really cool guy living out in the middle of nowhere Arizona (Apache Junction) and I think that more than anything else he was just really lonely. Little bit of the Only Gay in the Village syndrome there I think. Ended up moving to Idaho and getting on meth. I still have the cactus he gave me.
The only other sticky coming out came from a girl that I used to date from Spain. I joke that because I was the first one to go down on her, that made her gay, but I think that I was just the last try at completely hetero life. Only later did I realize that the shaved head and Birkenstocks that I thought were so cute might have been larger cultural signifiers.
posted by klangklangston at 11:55 AM on September 20, 2006


I await the Cherokee backlash against this thread. It'll take time, because there are about far fewer Cherokees than there are gay men and women. They'll probably point out that the running around naked thing is even more marginal than it used to be. Having said that, wikipedia points out that this Playboy model is part Cherokee. That link NSFW, in case you were in doubt. Sorry to end up 180 degrees off topic.
posted by imperium at 1:05 PM on September 20, 2006


I want to retract my last suggestion to run around 1/8 naked all of the time. Davy was only going to run around half naked 1/8 of the time, so he really only needs to be 1/16 naked all of the time to have the same effect.

I'm not sure if Jon is right about the face being equal to 1/8 of our skin area, but if he is then Davy is showing way too much skin-- please cover up.
posted by InfidelZombie at 1:22 PM on September 20, 2006


Buddy of mine came out just after high school. I responded with words to the effect of ‘let me know if anyone gives you any shit about it.’
We’re still friends.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:03 PM on September 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


Ask and you shall receive:

AMERICA

ERNIE:
Coming out...
You lovely man ...
Man of seductive teases
Always the young love is growing,
Always the sweet thought of ...

BERT:
Coming out
You terrible time...
Time of rumoured diseases.
Always the foul old men blowing,
Always the tumescence growing...
And the rent boy owing,
And the left out girls crying,
And the rainbow fags lying.

I’d like a glass with some ice in
filled with a quick pint of neat gin.

OTHERS:
the gay people stuck in America!
huge clusterfuck in America!
Cruising the scene in America
Turned down by size queen in America

ERNIE:
I like the power of gaydar

BERT:
Mine only works in a gay bar.

ERNIE:
Hundreds of pansies in full bloom.

BERT:
Why are they always in *your* room?

ALL:
It’s cool to be out in America,
Out and about in America,
The whole world loves us in America,
Front of the bus in America!

ERNIE:
I'll drive a Prius to San Fran

BERT:
A stereotype in a can can!

ERNIE:
I'll give my cousins a free ride

BERT:
How can you get all of them inside?

(ERNIE: Goatse, man
BERT: Oh, snap)

ALL:
Gay person goes to America,
Many down-lows in America,
Don’t ask don’t tell in America,
You’re going to Hell in America!

ERNIE:
Love’s not illegal, ain’t that grand

BERT:
But jail’s where you find a husband.

ERNIE:
Gay Cowboys have entered the mainstream

BERT:
They’re so much more fun when they’re obscene.

ALL (except BERT):
I like the boys of America!
Cheap plastic sex toys in America!
Wall-to-wall porn in America,
amyl nitrate ‘till dawn in America!

ERNIE:
Everyone here’s on the same page -

BERT:
Until Bush takes us back to the dark age!

ERNIE:
No one thinks that you’re an alien!

BERT:
Unless you are Episcopalian!

(With hearty apologies for EACH and EVERY stereotype I have shamelessly exploited)
posted by Sparx at 4:02 PM on September 20, 2006 [6 favorites]


Bravo!!!
posted by the_bone at 4:35 PM on September 20, 2006


Holy shit, Sparx...I am astounded.
posted by tristeza at 5:39 PM on September 20, 2006


Damn, sparx, that's the best un-PC bit I've read since ol' Lennie Bernstein came out posthumously.

No, seriously. I'm impressed.
posted by paulsc at 7:07 PM on September 20, 2006


Good job Sparx!

*summons cortex*
posted by Jon Mitchell at 11:21 PM on September 20, 2006


Thanks folks. Yeah, you'd never guess that I wasn't, in fact, American.

Full disclosure though:

ROSALIA:
I'll give my cousins a free ride
ANITA:
How can you get all of them inside?

is in fact an original line from the song originally probably copyright by Bernstein and Sondheim. I use it without permission. And warp a few other lines.

That said, it's about 45 minutes looking over my shoulder at work. Could survive a tune up.

/daydreams about cortextuality rising the bar Sparx drinks at.
posted by Sparx at 1:22 AM on September 21, 2006


Raising. Dammit. Raising.
posted by Sparx at 1:28 AM on September 21, 2006


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