Friday, October 07, 2005


The difficulty with coming out is not that I had to come out; wrote Pronoia, it's that I have to come out over and over and over again to all of the people -- known and unknown, familiar and not -- who make assumptions about who I am.

The issue of coming out and being out has been on my mind a lot, the last couple of months. Partly because it's been an issue for someone very close to me. But also because it's been an issue most of my life, in an oddly torqued way. Martha and I are queer as can be. Yet we're heterosexual, ("heterosexual to a fault," as one of our friends put it), and married, and de facto monogamous. I work and Martha stays home with the kids. We own a house in the close-in suburbs. When someone makes assumptions about us they're usually correct, so far as the ostensible realities go. The difficulty of coming out is that I have no pretexts for it. I can put a rainbow sticker on my car and signs in my yard against the horrid anti-gay-marriage initiatives, but that just marks me as a liberal. I'm not a liberal. I'm not tolerant. I'm queer, dammit.

Most of my closest friends have been lesbians, and if there's one gender/orientation group I feel I belong to -- I'm not sure there is, really -- that's it. I encounter "ordinary" heterosexual culture with bafflement. The sexual primping and suspicion, the weird mix of idolatry and contempt, the simultaneous exaltation of sex as sublime and its denigration as repulsive -- it all leaves me with the feeling that I'm visiting a superstitious, unpredictable, and very dangerous alien tribe. Whatever I am, I'm not one of them.

And yet I pass, all the time. It's an odd double sense of alienation. "Those people are all imagining that we're a straight couple," I think. "When in fact we're... well... we're a straight couple." Does that make them right? It doesn't, but it makes it difficult to tell them they're wrong. And there's something about this alienation that feels almost like an adolescent rebelliousness, as if I wanted to mutter, "we fuck because we want to, not because you tell us to!" I wonder sometimes if I'm just making it up. Maybe we are just an ordinary heterosexual couple, with a yen to believe ourselves different?

But it doesn't take much ordinary socializing to convince me that this is quite real, that this cultural alienation runs very deep. I return to my lesbian friends with relief, like a fish returning to water. Passing is exhausting. Especially when you don't mean to be.

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