Life Outside The Closet

My name is Beth and I am a gay woman.

I assume that this is not news to any of you who read this on anything like a regular basis.

I tend to assume that it isn’t news to most people, these days. To the point that when someone discovered earlier this year that I am indeed gay and imparted their new-found knowledge with a whiff of the vaguely scandalous, my response and everyone else’s was not to ask how he found out but rather to ask how he didn’t find out until now.

You might wonder then why it is that I’m bothering to say it.

Today is National Coming Out Day. And today, I could tell you about the first time I ever came out, or the first time I came out to someone in real life, or the first time I came out in real life to someone I knew, or the first time I actually managed to use the word “gay”.  I could tell you about coming out to my mum, and about being told that she loved me but that I shouldn’t tell the rest of my family and about how far she’s come since then. I could tell you about, several years later, quietly and earth-shatteringly and on the background of a Christmas holiday when I had done nothing but cry about it for four days, making the decision to tell the rest of my family anyway. I could tell you about all the times and situations when I’ve made a conscious choice to not come out.

But the thing about coming out is that it isn’t an event and it isn’t really a process. It’s a lifetime.

There are some people who would claim that they don’t understand why LGBT people do choose to come out. There are some people who I assume are either trying to be funny or else are drowning in their straight privilege when they say that LGB people shouldn’t come out as LGB, because, after all, straight people don’t come out as straight. (Unless they’re Darren Criss.)

But it’s not always about announcements and scandals and newspaper headlines. It’s not that I introduce myself by telling people that I’m gay and it’s not that I wear dungarees and a rainbow-striped stethoscope to work. It’s not about those things.

It’s about the half beat of hesitation, the first time you have to decide whether it’s worth correcting the casual acquaintance who just asked about your boyfriend (or girlfriend). It’s about conversations with medical staff who are appalled when your answer to, “What kind of contraception do you use?” is, “I don’t.” It’s in having an opinion about gay rights and choosing to tell the truth when someone asks why you care. It’s when a colleague makes a joke about his obs and gyn rotation almost turning him gay and you don’t stop yourself from making the joke back about yours almost turning you straight. It’s listening to casual homophobia and not being able to pretend that it doesn’t sting. It’s about the complexities of finding a church where nobody will marginalise you or try to fix you. It’s kissing your girlfriend (or boyfriend) in Starbucks, and knowing that there will be some people who will notice and some people who won’t like it. It’s when getting married or having children is seen as a political statement rather than a public declaration. It’s about the tiny flicker of surprise when you mention your same-sex partner or your plans to attend Pride at the weekend.

It’s all of these things and a thousand more.

And they’re less about coming out than they are about simply being out.

It’s making a choice to live life out loud and and without shame. It’s the privilege of having been born in a place and a time where I can safely make that choice. It’s knowing what it’s like to do the other thing, and knowing that that life is a life lived less honestly and less joyfully. And it’s knowing that it really does get better.

I was told something once, from a pulpit, not long after I moved here, and it meant an awful lot to me. It occurs to me that today,when people are quietly and earth-shatteringly making the decision to come out to their communities, to their loved ones, and to themselves, that this is a day when people perhaps need to hear it. It’s here.

But this is the important bit:

“Know this truth and know it for it is Gospel. You are made in the image and likeness of God. You are included in the sphere, in the circle, in the circumference of all that is holy, of all that is truth. You can’t be thrown out of the vineyard. You are loved. You are blessed. And nothing and no one can take that away.”

You are loved.

You are blessed.

And nothing and no one can take that away.

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20 comments

  1. I love your church. I think the truth told you there would be something I would want written above my heart, whether I was coming out or staying in, or hanging out next to the door.

    (It took me a year and a half of knowing you before I figured this out, just FYI. I just thought you were a very strong ally and a rabble-rousing Christian standing in the corner on behalf of LBGTQ friends. Which you are anyway.)

  2. I didn’t know this… I keep not noticing these things about people and I’m trying to work out whether it’s because it doesn’t bother me or I don’t make assumptions or whether I’m just really thick/self obsessed.

    Anyway, that aside, I think this is really nicely written and you are wonderful, and I want a rainbow striped stethoscope.

  3. Well done you for posting this. You have my respect.

    Now effing get back to work. There are patients to be seen, bloods to be taken and slightly odd practical procedures to be carried out. As one of your consultants whether you are gay or straight is a matter of monumental indifference to me and most others. As it should be. Having watched you work you are clearly an able junior doctor. What you do outside medicine ain’t an issue.

    However, if anyone gets at you for your sexuality I am more than happy to have ‘words’. You probably know by now that people would prefer to avoid that. :)

  4. Congratulations Beth on facing the ‘fear’ of rejection, and trying to help others to face theirs and find the ‘joy’ of being who they truly are. And I personally am delighted with the Beth I know.

  5. Well said. I am proud to be your aunt. I dont care if your striaght, gay or rainbow striped to match your stethescope. You are my neice and I love you, all of you. Besides it not being gay that causes me problems……….. its your inability to catch!!!!!! Love you and dont ever forget or ever change. You are quite simply just my Beth xxxx

  6. Sigh – we are much further on than we were even thirty years ago – it is only very occasionally that my mentioning my son has a husband and not a wife causes even the tiniest flutter. The sad thing is that while it rarely causes even a tiny stir, just very occasionally it causes a small tsunami.

    I don’t see you in dungarees, but a rainbow stethoscope would be very very cool.

    Actually, due to my clothes choice I have occasionally had to let it be discretely known I am straight … which caused me huge amusement.

  7. Dr Beth to me you are one of my crazy friends. Your sexuality is not an issue to me. You are just a Geordie who people think are Irish. Oh and now is the proud keeper of two crazy cats.

    In this world sexuality and/or gender is irrelevant to your ability to do a job / task. Not that long ago being female wpuld have prevented you from doing many jobs and employers would look at married women with disdain as thwy would be likely to breed. These days we live in more enlightened days and I look forward to the day that you do not have to describe yourself as a gay woman, but just Dr Beth, because that is all that matters.

  8. Huge, huge hugs to you Beth. I am, as ever, in awe of you and your wonderful gifts. I thank God for the gift of you and the gift of your beautiful writing…

  9. You are my Beth and every day in every way I am proud of you. Don’t ever forget that. We have travelled this journey together and you have taught me so much xx

  10. Something I didn’t realise the first time I came out was that I was going to have to come again, and again, and again, every time I met a new group of people or moved to start over in a new place. Honestly it gets a bit tedious but it’s also never stopped being a bit terrifying either.

    1. I started a new job two months ago. I am back on the merry-go-round of coming out. I am well aware that most of my colleagues think that I’m straight, not because I’ve told them that I’m straight but because telling them that I’m not isn’t a thing that’s come up. It’s very odd.

      And then I start another new job in December and the whole thing starts again.

      I had realised a long time ago that I was going to have to keep coming out, over and over and over again. The thing I didn’t realise when I started this job was that the transient nature of the job meant that I would be doing it a lot.

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