As my friends and family mostly do not live near me, when I decided to come out I adopted a different tactic than trying to visit them all and tell them face-to-face. I decided to write a series of letters, tailored to the people I was coming out to.
This means of coming out has its advantages. It allows people to take some time and reflect before reacting. That’s usually a good thing, as even ultimately supportive people have the initial reaction of shock. It also allows me to avoid angry or “blow up” reactions, which is something I’ve never been comfortable being around, let alone having directed at me. I’ve assumed those who most strongly object to my coming out are unlikely to be part of my life going forward anyway, so why make the last act toward our eventual parting something gratuitously ugly?
But there is a negative aspect to this kind of coming out which I didn’t appreciate until I experienced it… waiting for a response.
Most of these letters are sent via-e-mail, so I don’t have to wait much for postal delays. However there is usually a serious lag time between me telling people the news, and people responding (quick aside: anyone who responds very quickly has tended to be genuinely supportive. but that’s pretty rare.).
The delay can mean anything. Sometimes people don’t check their e-mail for a couple of days. Sometimes they’re super busy and want to take some time to craft a carefully worded reply. Sometimes they have no idea how to respond. Sometimes they are angry about it and don’t want to respond.
The problem is, since it’s impossible to know why they’re not responding, it’s hard to know how to feel about it. E tries to give me pep talks to keep me positive during these waiting periods, but I think a lot of that is because she knows how strongly my imagination runs in the opposite direction. I expect rejection. The longer it takes to come, the more contempt and rejection I imagine being poured into the eventual response.
I should note that when I came out in the first place, I didn’t expect much support from anyone. I expected I would be effectively starting life over, needing to make new friends and construct a kind of new proxy-family. My experience has been far more positive than that. But… the old fears are still the bedrock underlying my expectations whenever I come out to anyone. It might not be so bad with others. The waiting part, I mean. Maybe it’s just me.