Today comedian and all ’round top chick Magda Szubanski announced she was gay. It was a big deal. It shouldn’t have been, we hear you say, but for her it was. Her interview on The Project tonight makes for great television. Watch it now:
But why is coming out such a big commotion anyway? Why should anyone have to, or feel like they must?
I did not come out of the closet so much as the closet was dismantled slowly from around me. Panel by heartbreaking panel my fortress of solitude was torn down and sold for junk on the blackmarket of extreme gender curiosity.
Each veiled question, aimed at securing a little more whether I ‘was or wasn’t’ was rather like an eye peeping through the cracks of my humble little closet, swivelling and squinting for a look at what, I had thought, had been my best kept secret.
Of course my charade was the homosexual equivalent of a prison break in broad daylight where the thief in black and white clothing attempts a Looney Tunes-esque run for freedom behind a fake bush. Not fooling anybody.
At this point I should like to point out that there has never been a requirement for my older brother, who is straight, to sit my mother down and have ‘the talk’ with her explaining in no uncertain terms that he likes women and that, yes, boobs kind of do it for him. Had he, or anyone for that matter, done this society might have thought them weird.
Indeed, there is a new breed of gay who has dispensed entirely with the construct of the closet (they are so avant garde) and decided there really is no need for this whole coming out hullabaloo in the first place. And while this is an admirable march forward, I scarcely think most of society is ready for it, for better or for worse.
This lot just take their first boyfriends or girlfriends home as some kind of homo surprise.
Taking that path would be less a military-precision escape from the closet and more akin to bursting from it at high speed atop a gilded and bedazzled lion. I envy those who can take this road as my removal from the closet was traumatic and prolonged, on account of the fact I used a broom handle to try and brace myself against the door while people pulled at my ankle.
You see, for the longest while I thought it entirely possible that I could fake it until I make it. I’d never fallen in love with a boy, of any persuasion, so I thought the innate sense of my being gay might forever remain a dull realisation somewhere at the back of my mind where I stored useless information about dinosaurs and the rise and fall of Pop Tarts.
As I’ve previously written, I certainly found myself two unwitting girlfriends in high school who aided and abetted my stated goal of remaining straight forever. Growing up in the country was useful because nobody really knew any gay kids and therefore their gaydars were about as well tuned as a parsnip. And so my charade survived beyond high school.
When I was nearly 21, around the time of the November 2007 Federal Election (because even my sexuality issues must somehow invoke the political) I met and stupidly fell in love with a boy I could never have. This shattered my finely cultivated illusion that I would one day have a wife and three kids and that all would be well in the world. I was gay. This was Year 0 and I would have to bloody well admit to it.
And so began what might possibly be the longest path to coming out of the closet in the history of mankind, beaten only by Harry Potter whom I somewhat resemble.
It’s no coincidence that literally every friend and relative I told I did so while under the influence of significant amounts of alcohol. Perhaps it was my penchant for the melodramatic, but I was supremely terrified of their reaction.
I felt like Quasihomo and wanted to yell from every rooftop ‘don’t look at meeee’ seemingly in accordance with the views of some in society who thought homosexuals had come to destroy their crops and terrify their women.
But I didn’t get that reaction at all. I wanted that reaction because I wanted justification for the anger I felt at my own situation. For having to do this whole stage-managed prance to existential freedom in the first place. I hated it. And, at the time, I hated myself for being something I could not control. Gay Hulk. I was Gay Hulk.
Perhaps it was my mother’s reaction that was the funniest. Some of my high school cohort had found out and I wanted to beat them to the punch so, liquored up on half a cask of wine on a hotel balcony, I phoned her and blurted out what secretly we had both known. She paused. “Oh darling, I don’t care. But I do have one question. Was it the Ken doll I gave you when you were six?”
My answer was that yes, of course, Ken and his man-lump had turned me gay just like all the Barbies in all the land had turned all the little girls into raging lesbians. But she tried to understand. I think mum’s sum knowledge of The Gay came from two gentlemen she worked with after she finished high school at David Jones which I suppose is a fairly good starting point. I, however, do not like teapots.
My other friends were distinctly unimpressed either way by the horrendous build-up to the spilling of the beans. A unified chorus for each one: ‘is that it, that’s your secret’? If I was gunning for impact it might have been more effective to tell them I was packing 1200 kg of plutonium in my pants.
I had another inform me that I would be going to hell if I didn’t repent because homosexuality is a sin. He was rather nice about it however because of the whole ‘hate the sin and not the sinner’ mentality, which I find bewildering given that mine is not a ‘sin’ of choice but nonetheless I will be a groomsman at his wedding next year because we’re cool like that even though I stopped talking to him for months. Now we just get drunk together and argue things that neither of us will change our minds about.
Another tried to give me a book that would help me be straight again. I assured her I would read it just as soon as I was done adjusting the length of my red leather pants. She’s also one of my best friends to this day because at some point you have to realise that people can disagree violently and still be friends. And let me tell you, we disagree violently.
I laugh about this because I have to. Let me not understate how traumatic a period this was for me. There are some things it led to which I cannot write about here. Still, it isn’t the fact that I went through it that makes me sad. It’s the fact that thousands of young gays still do. Society demands of them a special circumstance when all they want is to be the same. And whether the reactions to a coming out story are good or bad, the torment that precedes the admission I can attest to being overwhelming and all-consuming. Some don’t make it out alive because they would rather a noose around their neck than to confront the gaze of society when they finally step, timid, from that closet.
This journey began in 2007 and it ended in 2010 when I finally did the eternally cool thing and changed my information on Facebook to read ‘is interested in men’. Dun dun dun.
This is a bigger deal than it seems.
I came out progressively. My sexual unveiling to the world was like a 12-course degustation menu where some people were like ‘oh, I love this’ and others were all ‘God, you abomination’ and then everybody was drunk and we laughed a little bit.
Since my first tellee there has been a steady flow of milestones that helped chart the course of my orientation sensation. Milestones like being gay in a gay bar instead of pretending you’re uncomfortable, telling your mother, mentioning the whole gay thing within 6 months of telling your mother to remind her that it wasn’t a phase.
You know, the usual.
The last hurdle was to say it and say it loud on Facebook.
Why do I care?
Truth be known, I shouldn’t. The content of a person’s sexuality should no more be the dinner party conversation than a person’s choice of favourite colour, or why that man from down the street has so much tinned ham in his wheelie bin. It’s really of no consequence to anyone. Unless you’re friends with a lot of pigs, in which case, shame on you.
But it didn’t quite feel complete. It felt like I had swum the English Channel only to cling to a marker buoy 20m from the finish saying ‘you know what gents, I think I’ll just call it a day here’. And people will be all up in my grill saying ‘well, it’s only fucking 20m, you might as well just do it’.
And my argument to date has been, you know what, I don’t care. I’ve done the hard yards up until now I don’t need to do the other 20m. It’s so inconsequential
But let’s be honest here. You need to put the little finishing touches on things. Like if you’re making a children’s doll and you don’t want to put eyes on it, you probably should because have you any idea how fucking creepy those things are without eyes? Details matter.
So I made the change and told my 535 Facebook friends, some of them from high school, that I like men.
I’ve gone from apparently being interested in ‘nothing to see here people, move along’ to liking men.
I’m not expecting anything to come of it.
Now, this might seem like the trivial pursuit of a Generation Y professional mountain-from-molehill builder. Not the case. I don’t care.
I don’t care in the same way that I don’t really care that you’ve worn horizontal stripes with vertical stripe pants. It doesn’t change the way I live or anything like that but Good Lord it would make me an ounce happier if you changed.
And it’s so easy to do it…so what’s the point of enduring that little niggly voice tell you to grow a pair and just do it.
I now view my own life as being pre-closet and post-closet, the latter being filled with more flicked wrists than I care to mention or count. There are those who scarcely believe, having met me, that anybody could ever have thought me straight.
But that is more a symptom of how delightfully comfortable in myself I am today, rather than how daft anybody was not to notice it yesterday. I’m out. I’m proud and the closet sits on the scrapheap of my frailer moments.
I’m not going back in there, not even if you bait it with shiny things.
And there it rests.