'There's a National Coming Out Day?'
It's a question I silently posed to myself after a reporter asked my thoughts on the importance of National Coming Out Day on October 11. It's usually followed by, 'I think it's great... much needed.' I shift the topic as quickly as I can to something else—like in this particular case Governor McGreevey or Lance Bass, since they are the most recent high profile gays to enter the fold. This seems to please the reporter, and I seemingly dodge a bullet temporarily. Let's face it, few gays and lesbians will admit, at least publicly, the reason why such a day even exists.
The reporter's asking me this question because he's interviewing me for a book my mom and I wrote together called Conversations & Cosmopolitans: How To Give Your Mother a Hangover. The book tackles a broad range of topics: love, body image, and identity, all from the springboard of coming out to my parents.
Coming Out seems to be such a redundant topic for a number of gays and lesbians. I'll be honest, I often skip articles when seeing coming out in the title. I've been there, done that—I even wrote the book on it, literally. I know I'm not the only who feels like this. So often we say to ourselves, 'I don't want to relive that again,' or more commonly, 'If I have to read another coming out story... .' For many gays and lesbians ( to borrow author Jen Lancaster's phrase ) , when it comes to coming out, 'bitter is the new black,' and quite a number of us have been wearing it for more than one season, including me.
I had my coming out day already. Did we need one on a national level? My own coming out day was when I sent my parents a letter announcing I was gay. Not surprisingly, my mother had several worries. In fact, she thought that she was about to lose me to some sort of deep, dark underworld of promiscuity, drugs, and leather. Sure, she could sympathize with my sister over her boyfriends or even my brother with girlfriends, because she'd been there herself; she knew how to be a shoulder to cry on for my sister's breakups, and she also understood the excitement of new love ( heterosexual love, that is ) . Somehow my mother feared that I was going to disappear into a world whose rules she didn't comprehend. Even more, she feared that she'd no longer be needed.
Ten years later, after a lot of conversations, and yes, a few cosmopolitans, my mother and I had an honest relationship about my life as an openly gay man.
Two months into writing the book, I received a phone call late one morning.
'I've been doing some research on the sexual practices of gays. You're not into water sports, are you?,' my conservative Midwestern mother asked. Research? Where in the hell was she researching water sports? However, before I could get a word out of my mouth, she followed with, 'Would you consider yourself a bossy bottom?'
'The only water sports I'm into, mother, involve a pair of skis, but thank you for the concern. How's the writing coming along?'
'Good. I have a few suggestions,' she said with a hint of an ego.
'Wait a second. Do I seem like a bossy bottom to you?' I asked.
'The book?' she said, clearly not wanting to know my preferences in sexual positions.
'Give it to me,' I said as I began to pace around my pint-sized apartment.
'I think we should cover your regular waxing visits.'
'You wanna talk about my waxing? Are you insane?,' I asked, horrified. 'Mom, I was thinking more along the lines of what it's like to be gay, told from a mother-and-son perspective.'
'Been there, read that. You want people to buy this or not?,' she shot back. 'We have to cover everything, 'manscaping' and all.' I was sickened that my mother had uttered the phrase 'manscaping.' 'I've read that most men who wax usually do it to please their partner. Are you waxing for you or for someone else?'
Oh, God. What had I done? Within a matter of a few months, my mother had become a cross between the next Betty DeGeneres and 'sex grandma' Sue Johanson.
As the reporter continued on with his questions, I recalled those early conversations with my mom about coming out. It reminded me of the whole point of writing the book—we wanted these stories to be told in a way that could open up a dialogue between families through both the funny and sometimes sad stories we told. This was the message of National Coming Out day; a dialogue between people—something the world could certainly use.
Therefore, to the bitter, snarky gay turning his nose at this coming out story ( like my old self ) : I sincerely regret having bored you with my snippet of my coming out story, but if nothing else, know that after googling I discovered that National Coming Out Day commemorates October 11, 1987, when approximately 500,000 people marched on Washington, for gay and lesbian equality. With recent headlines and in the current political climate, maybe it's time we all marched again or at the very least stood proud on National Coming Out Day.
For more information on Robert Rave and Conversations and Cosmopolitans: How To Give Your Mother a Hangover, visit www.convosandcosmos.com or at www.myspace.com/convosandcosmos. The book is currently available at barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com .