Always Coming Out

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I used to think that I only had to come out of the closet once: just walk into the family kitchen and announce, "I like boys better than girls." But in 30 years, I've learned that I never stop coming out because I keep running into people who assume I'm straight.

It's pretty obvious that I am gay. I don't wear boa feathers but I've lived in San Francisco with the same 'wasband' for a quarter of a century. I know all the words to Gypsy and we have three Pekingeses who dress up in costumes for Christmas photos.

Despite this, I still run into people like this nice lady who made a pass at me at a Harvey Milk fundraiser. That's not barking up the wrong tree, that's barking in the wrong forest.

I'm not the only one. Part of the problem with the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' military business is that most people assume that all the soldiers are straight. All that Alexander and Achilles and Sacred Band of Thebes business got whitewashed, or should I say straight-washed?

So each and every time I come out, it takes courage. When I tell the plumber I'm gay, will he overcharge me on the assumption that I don't know cast iron from copper? Will I get a bad chardonnay at the Niners game? When I tell my son's teacher, is she going to make me read "Heather Has Two Mommies" to her class?


This makes coming out a thrill, a cross between tattoos and skydiving. I brand myself as different forever and I leap, hoping like heck that the chute will open. Sometimes it doesn't work out. For instance, the local Catholic school rejected my kindergartner because his parents are gay. But most of the time when I've told cops or criminals or country singers that despite my two children, three dogs, government job, husband and mortgage I am still gay, they have responded, "I never thought that a gay person was so much like me."

So here is my life lesson: in telling my community I am different, I am telling them we are all the same.

With a Perspective, this is Kevin Fisher-Paulson.