When I decided to come out to my close friends, there was one specifically that stood out among the rest. I struggled deciding whether or not to tell him. Back when we were teammates in college, my sexuality came into question on numerous occasions, often in public settings.
My team had the tradition of roasting everyone at the year-end banquet. The seniors addressed the team as a group, offering up gag gifts to individuals. Rarely did anyone’s feelings truly get hurt, but I specifically remember my gift freshmen year. It was a rainbow sticker and a small flashlight (so I could find my way out of the closet). I took the offense in stride and laughed it off because this occasion was meant to be in good fun. While he wasn’t the one roasting me on this occasion (it was his best friend and roommate), I feel he was somewhat a part of it.
On another occasion, he was giving me a ride home from a bar with 2 of my other teammates. When he stopped to drop me off, he ambushed me. I was about to get out of the van when he turned to me and started on this elaborate interrogation. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but at one point he flat out asked me if I was gay.
At the time, I was still in denial, so of course I said no. This wasn’t a satisfactory answer of course, so some more prodding ensued. Again I denied it. I said, “Have you ever seen me doing anything inappropriate with a dude? Have you ever seen me checking out a guy before? No. So why are you asking me this?”
Still not a satisfactory response. I denied it a third time before he finally let up. My two other teammates were both flabbergasted by his audacity, but also laughing along and complacent not saying anything while this went on. I don’t hold their silence against them. I probably would have done the same thing.
This occasion really stood out to me because I can recall how uncomfortable it made me. I couldn’t wait to get out of the van but also felt the need to stay and defend myself. I was worried that my silence would be taken as agreement of his view. He may have thought he was doing me a favor by getting it out there in the open, but I wasn’t ready. You can’t force anyone out of the closet. I hadn’t come to terms with my homosexuality myself, let alone anyone else.
Back to a few months ago, I was hosting my annual holiday party. He has attended for the past 4 years, and was extended an invitation again. However, there was one big issue this year. I invited Broadway to come.
Many of my friends already knew I was dating him, but most had not met him yet. His busy schedule never allowed for it. The few friends I invited who didn’t already know I was gay were told (including the other 2 guys who were in the van that night). All except 1.
I spoke to one of my teammates who was in the van that night about how I didn’t feel it was appropriate to share this part of my life with him in a positive light. He had shined such a negative light on the topic that I wanted to ambush him with the news much like he ambushed me years earlier. He told me I should do whatever I felt comfortable with when the time came to breaking the news.
In hindsight, this was very immature. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
The moment came when Broadway walked in, and my plan fell apart. I lost my nerve and asked a mutual friend to go tell him about Broadway, rather than walking up and introducing Broadway myself. He was already pretty drunk, so he never heard my friend tell him what was up. His wife, however, did. She decided it would be a good idea to leave before he made a scene.
The next morning it came up in conversation at their apartment. He finally caught on to the situation and called the other teammate from the van to tell him, only to realize I already had. That’s when he realized everyone else already knew, and he was the last to be clued in.
He called that day and asked if he could come over to talk. I knew this was going to be an uncomfortable situation, but I agreed. I immediately opened a bottle of wine and chugged some liquid courage. I wanted to be completely honest about the whole situation – no sugarcoating. I didn’t want to just play nice and tell him we were cool.
When he arrived, he asked why I never pulled him aside to tell him, when everyone else already knew. I described for him that night in the van and how uncomfortable it made me feel. I told him how this was something so positive in my life. Everyone was accepting me with open arms, and I didn’t want to taint that feeling with memories of how he made me feel.
I think this really hit close to home for him. I could see tears welling up in his eyes, and I got the most genuine of apologies. I really appreciated that. I was never mad at him. It never affected our friendship. We are still good friends. But because of that night, it excluded him from the close circle I developed when telling my friends I was gay. Now that we’ve gotten past our issues, that part of my life is something I feel comfortable sharing with him.
#1 by Jay Conway on May 12, 2011 - 8:18 PM
You are truly correct when you said that no one can force someone out of the closet. It took me a long time to come to grips with it myself, let alone adding any outside pressure. As far as your friend goes, it was probably a learning experience for both of you. Words and actions have consequences, more than we sometimes understand.