The Never-Ending Coming Out Process

Couper Gunn, 20, is a captain of the men’s soccer team at Colby-Sawyer College, which is a little over an hour southeast of me, and will be graduating in 2022 with a major in History and Political Studies and a minor in Education on track for a master’s in Education. In January of this year, Couper wrote about his coming out for Outsports. He has said that wearing a Pride shirt inspired him, a gay college soccer captain, to come out.

In the video above, he talks about something that all of us have had to deal with: coming out. If you are not out, then coming out is something on your mind constantly. If you are out, coming out is on your mind every time you meet someone new. It’s not a one-and-done thing. We first have to come out to ourselves. Then, we have to come out to others in our lives. We also have to decide: Are we coming out at work? Should we come out in church? Do we come out to just friends or do we also come out to our family? When, where, how, why, and to whom are all decisions we have to make.

For some coming out is easy. They grew up in a loving and accepting environment, and they know they will be accepted. For most of us though, it’s not that simple. It seems that it gets easier for each generation, but there are still parts of the country that will always lag behind (the South, I am talking about you). It also makes a difference whether you live in an urban or rural area.

Once you do come out, it is a continuing process, and it’s not always easy for everyone. I came out very slowly. It began with telling two people I greatly trusted and admired. Then, I decided to tell a few other people, but for about a year, I was very selective of whom I told. Finally, I came out to everyone in my grad school, but that was by far not everyone I had to come out to. My parents were the hardest, but they found out before I could come out to them. Every time I have had a new job, I have had to go through the coming out process, most of the time, it has been done in a subtle way, and sometimes I never came out fully at all. Only a few people knew, like when I taught at the private school in Alabama.

Even coming out to my doctor in Vermont was a nerve-racking experience for me. I had only ever come out to one doctor before and that was a nightmare that I don’t want to discuss, though I think I have on this blog before. My doctor here never even batted an eye when I told him. Also, with my medical profile, I list that I am a gay man, so all of my medical specialists know that I am a gay man when they read my chart. The problem is that the process never really ends. I hope that one day, no one will have to go through the process of coming out. Our sexualities won’t be questioned, and we will be free to be who we are without fear of any kind. Until that day though, coming out will be a thing that all LGBTQ+ people have to grapple with.

Even once we come out, we should examine what parts of ourselves and our personalities are things we did to hide out sexuality. I told a friend not too long ago that I learned to walk without a swish and to stop talking so much with my hands. The same is true about the way I hold a cup of tea or coffee. For some, it’s the way we sit or how we cross our legs that we trained ourselves to do more “straight.” Sometimes we can’t even recognize all of the things we learned not to do or to do differently because we wanted to hide our sexuality. How many of us learned to check out men without being obvious? I know I learned to only move my eyes, not my head, but our eyes always give us away if someone is looking close enough. Do you recognize the things in you that you learned at an early age to hide or else you’d be labeled a sissy?

You can find Couper on Instagram @cmaxxg and TikTok @cmaxxg

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

2 responses to “The Never-Ending Coming Out Process

  • Moebius

    For me it was definitely changing the tone of my voice to be more masculine. People started questioning my sexuality during my junior year of high school when I started dressing in more of a queer fashion. So I slowly changed my voice to be more manly and also my naturally deeper voice kicked in as well at the time. People have even said that I sound like the Allstate guy. Now being in the military where talk about sex is as common as talking about lunch plans or sports, coming out can literally be an everyday thing. Especially when people make comments on my voice or how I look and say that I must “get some” all the time. It’s a constant thing to the point where I blatantly say that I’m gay and don’t even let the air settle. Even now that I work somewhere more conservative where I have heard the term hermaphrodite in reference to the trans community i don’t think I’ll be coming out anytime soon. Even being in Gen Z no one tells you just how often coming out occurs and how annoying it can be. It’s a constant gaging of your surroundings and even subtly turning a conversation topic to queer-rights related stuff to see where people stand. Half of the times I come out its out of annoyance due to the amount of heteronormative stuff people push onto me in a conversation. Its no fault of them its just annoying and a lot of cishet men just cannot seem to grasp any social cues. Thank you for writing this article it helps me feel seen as before I return to a homophobic workplace and back into the closet, after a vacation soon.

    • Joe

      Moebius, it’s not always an easy thing. For me, most people automatically assume I’m gay because of my voice. When I worked in more homophobic environments, there were always rumors. When I was teaching at the private school in Alabama where I could not be out, there were always rumors amongst the students. One time, I made the comment that I don’t eat Chik-Fil-A, and a student said under their breath, “Faggot.” It got a big laugh. I didn’t hear it but the one student who did know I was gay did and told me about it. I’ve never had those types of experiences here in Vermont, for which I’m very grateful.

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