2 min

Lives of integrity

Coming out for Pride - and dignity

Credit: Xtra West files

My boyfriend left me alone over Pride. Well, not exactly alone: I was surrounded by more than 100,000 proud queers of all stripes on Pride day. And my Xtra West co-workers were at hand even as my gay friends left town for the weekend.

But my boyfriend-well, Felix was shepherding his family around and over the Rocky Mountains. They’re visiting from Hong Kong, you see-mom and dad, older brother and his wife and nine-year-old daughter. All in one van.

And Felix waiting for the right moment to come out. And scared about how they’ll react. You see, it’s a profoundly close-knit family in the way of so many Chinese families. Felix’s parents phone from Hong Kong for the smallest of reasons-to ask about the weather, to tell him what they’re eating, to check on the pronunciation of a word in English.

Just two months ago, Felix came out to a well-known gossip at work-and then let the daily dishing spread the word. The same week, he came out by e-mail to his two brothers in Hong Kong.

Felix cried as he read their beautifully supportive responses. His younger brother noted that life often differs from one’s expected trajectory and cited the separation from his wife. The older sibling emphasized in broken English that nothing has changed between them, that they are brothers. And they asked if he was happy and if he had someone special in his life.

But the parents, well, that’s another matter. Both brothers suggested Felix reconsider his decision to next come out to mom and dad. So, Felix sent his parents a photo of the two of us on a beach on Galiano Island, hoping they’d ask for details about the bearded white man.

They didn’t of course, and so my stud muffin steeled himself for the hard slog of raising the subject himself when they come for their annual visit. Being a meticulous planning sort, he identified three points in the vacation when he could reasonably expect to have an opportunity to bring up the subject.

Well, we’ve all been there, haven’t we?

I took my mother for a day of shopping and lunching to come out to her. She talked non-stop, and I ended up blurting out that I’m gay as we drove down the highway. Her response was to try and jump out of the car at 80 km/h. She got over it.

Dad didn’t; we still don’t speak.

I’ve never been fully convinced that it is absolutely essential for people to come out to everyone in their lives. I told Felix that only he knows whether-and how-he ought come out to his parents. But, I said, I won’t be made invisible for the duration of their six-week vacation. I will come by to visit and to care for the lovely backyard garden we nurtured this year. He can introduce me to his mom and dad as simply “Gareth.” Or he can fully explain who I am to him. But he cannot tell people I’m his gardener, as he did a friend a few months ago-before he started opening up to everyone.

It is Pride season, after all. I’d be willing to bet that more of us come out in July and August than any other combination of months of the year. Every time we come out to someone, we change our world a little. That someone now knows a gay person and may speak up against homophobia. And we, well we get so much more: we take control of our own life, our own fate. We live in truth and with integrity. We make it possible to reach our potential, to be free to be who we really are. And in coming out, we join a community, a diverse community, of other people daring to be free to be who they really are.

Together, we’re changing the world of love.

Gareth Kirkby is Managing Editor for Xtra.