I never really had the chance to come out, since I never really had the "opportunity" to be in; some of us are more obvious than others. Obvious as what, though, hasn't always been so clear.
If you look at my life at all, and specifically my love life - slim file that it is - it gets confusing. Gay, straight, bi, some sort of transgender? How would I be labeled? Human consciousness and behavior isn't much subtler than that of other animals: we want to eat, have sex and, no matter how much we bellow and squawk, we're afraid of nearly everything. Our fear breeds our need to codify and label, to reassure ourselves with an illusory clarity. I've spent much of my life trying to find and fit a label for myself, discovering things about myself that felt definitive at the time, and then making declarations of "this is what I am". Only to realize soon after that, no, that didn't really explain it. Didn't explain me. I've never been a close fit with any of the clearly established categories of sexuality/gender, never really felt fully in synch with any of those groups. That's always been a cause of sadness and frustration for me; we all want to belong. (Especially when you're one of society's oddballs, and you don't even seem to fit inwith any of the other oddballs.) But as you get older, if you're lucky, you stop struggling with things as much. Which often makes it easier to see what your particular truth is. And I've come to realize that I'm all of those things and none of them.
And knowing that helps me to recognize that, when it comes to sexuality and gender, most people are blended to some degree. Whether they know it or not, I don't believe anyone is 100% anything. Again, even if we're not aware of it, we also all make choices about how we present ourselves to the people we know and love, how we present ourselves in the world. I don't know if anyone is completely aware of their sexual response, completely integrated in their gender identity. So can anyone be completely honest about it?
Coming out - if you can, if you will - is about so much more than personal honesty, though. So much more than a brave act, a claiming of dignity and freedom. It's just as much a gift. A necessary and loving gift of expansion. To those who don't recognize anything other than their own preconceptions, and to those of us who fool ourselves into thinking we're fairly free of those things. When someone comes out - as grand or small a gesture as it may be - it gives all of us the opportunity to expand our feeble understanding of truth and reality. It's a reminder that all of us need to remember that nothing is ever really as simple as it seems. The world is incredibly complex - more than we can comprehend - and so are we. Each individual of us. I am me. You are you. They are them. And each of us is incredibly - perfectly - specific, just as one blade of grass is different from every other blade of grass.
Stephen O'Donnell, painter and singer/performer. A mid-career fine artist, I have been showing professionally since 1995. Married to author and graphic designer Gigi Little, with whom I occasionally perform a mother and daughter singing act, Madeleine and Penny Prévert.