If you haven't yet seen Love, Simon, I highly recommend it.
The movie is about a boy, obviously named Simon, who has a loving mother, father and sister, and is one of four best friends who make up his tight-knit social group. One day he finds an online confession of a closeted gay student at his high school, who goes by an pseudonym. He then begins communicating anonymously with this guy — aptly named Jacques, derived from the latin word Iacomus, meaning heel-grabber — and they form an online friendship and share personal details with each other.
This scenario sounds like all the other movies and television shows made about gay, bisexual and transgender people coming out to their loved ones; they’re surrounded by families that appear to love and support them, but these people are still terrified that they won't be accepted.
Being a gay man, I can testify it’s an all-too-familiar experience that these people are forced to face. “Coming out” in many cases goes as well as anybody would expect, but in some instances it doesn’t. What it does do, however, is bring up a line from the movie: “It doesn't seem fair that only gay people have to come out, why is straight the default?”
“My mom was driving me to school and out of the blue asked me who I had planned to take to prom. I had come out to my friends several months earlier and had asked a guy to come with me and when asked, I just responded with his name in hopes that she’d not hear me or not think about it,” one person, who asked to remain anonymous, told me on the phone.
He explained to me that his situation wasn't as most people would see it on television, with the parents sitting on the couch and the kid saying “I need to tell you something”. It’s more akin to — and being a gay man, I can back this up — an extremely uncomfortable scenario that millions of people are forced into, all because the social norm is to be straight.
“I blunted it out and then escaped the situation as quickly as possible. The situation, no matter how hard you try to make it not, is always as awkward and anxiety-inducing as possible.”
Krystal, a 20-year-old college student who lives on the shores of Lake Scugog, explained that her experience was along the same lines.
“It was really hard first coming out. I told my best friend first and I didn't even have the courage to tell her in-person, I did over text,” she said. “After that it took me two or three months to tell the rest of my close friends, but I didn’t even tell them, they just had to eventually ask.”
Around a year later, she then worked up the courage to tell her parents. Though she knew they were supportive, she said she felt scared they might think less of her.
“I was really scared they weren't going to accept me. I had a lot of friends who told their parents and their parents hated them for it.”
What bugged her the most, she told me, was that people don’t understand that sexuality isn’t something you necessarily choose.
“My mom said I should have talked to her before making that decision and I hated that and was mad that anybody would think it was my decision to make.”
Both sides of the spectrum often debate whether sexuality is chosen, or if it chooses you, but it’s hard to imagine someone choosing something that would result in a lifetime of oppression and discrimination.
Steven, a 22-year-old alarm dispatcher from Sarnia, came out to his parents when he got into his first relationship with a man. He told his friends first and months later told his parents.
“It was scary, I didn’t know how she [my mother] would react. I laughed it off and then went to my room and cried.”
He then tells me that he didn’t understand why liking someone of the same sex as yourself is such a big deal, and that the whole experience was awkward and nerve wracking.
Our parents are generally expected to support us no matter what, but depending on their ideologies and political opinions, that’s not always the case. In modern media we often see and hear about people coming out as gay and lesbian to their friends and family only to be alienated, instead of accepted by them. It’s important to not that this might not represent the majority of these situations, but it still makes up a good chunk of them.
“I had straight friends at the time but felt if they know I was gay they wouldn't want to hang out with me,” Steven continued. “Overall in my mind, it wasn't as big a deal as everybody made it out to be.”
However, he said that finally coming out has allowed him to feel more like himself.
“The more time that's gone by the more I understand who I am and that it's okay to be this way,” he explained.
This is something that many people in this situation find themselves wondering — “why is this such a big deal?” The exact same theme is explored in Love, Simon as Simon explains how “it doesn't seem fair that only gay people have to come out” and asks “why is straight the default?”
Unfortunately there isn't an easy answer.