Keep On Coming Out

In honor of National Coming Out Day, we bring you the coming out musings of David Levy, long-time Keshet member and board member, who explains why he doesn’t think the coming out process is ever over… and why that’s not a bad thing.

Creative Commons/Paul Lowry

Creative Commons/Paul Lowry

Coming out is such a profound aspect of the LGBT experience for many of us that it’s taken on a special place within queer culture. When I was growing up, coming out stories dominated gay fiction and cinema. Swapping our own stories of coming out is a frequent characteristic of gay dating. But there are two questions that come up in these contexts that always aggravate me:

“How old were you when you came out?” and,

“Don’t you wish we lived in a time when no one had to come out?”

The first question sticks in my craw because coming out is a process that might have a beginning, but it certainly doesn’t have an ending. Every time I meet new people, I am presented with another opportunity to come out. Do I make a pronouncement or work it casually into conversation? Missing the opportunity, even unintentionally, can make me feel shoved back into the closet. That feeling worsens the longer it takes to remedy the situation, as a misconception can turn into at best an awkward situation and at worst a secret you never meant to keep.

I came out to my best friend in high school when I was 15, after I had been messing around with a couple of guys for about a year… But I never talked about gay identity with those guys, so did I come out to them? I told my parents when they dropped me off at college, but it took me until about a month into my sophomore year, when I made a speech at Hillel for National Coming Out Day, to feel like I was really out to the entire community. At my first job, running the business side of a record label devoted to show tunes, it was easy to be out. At my second job, as a youth educator at a suburban Conservative synagogue, I found myself back in the closet, at least when I was on the clock. When I left three years later, I vowed never to take a job that made me feel like I needed to be in the closet again. So did I come out at 14, 15, 18, 19, or 27?