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?