Coming out -- before God and country, as the old saying goes -- is an absolute necessity if you want to be a healthy homosexual or bisexual. Whatever disincentives there may be -- it's unfortunate that our society provides so many -- the benefits ordinarily far outweigh the liabilities.
The alternative is to allow the homophobia permeating every last drop of social sustenance to cache itself ever more deeply within our psyches, where it does a thousand subtlely destructive things.
Not being out is a huge barrier to personal intimacy, even to fairly casual friendship. Unless you want to be completely isolated socially-- in which case maybe you should seek counseling -- you can't expect others to be honest and trustworthy friends unless you treat them with complete candor. To do otherwise shows a lack of basic respect for the other person, I think.
In my college years, one close friend finally told me he had always felt I didn't really like him because -- he had known for years -- around him I never mentioned this very central aspect of my life.
In thinking about that incident afterwards, I realized why I didn't tell him. Even later I realized why not doing so was so damaging to me and to my friendships generally. It dawned on me eventually that it had even erected or reinforced barriers to intimacy in my closest love relationships.
I think the main reason we don't tell is that we fear being rejected if we do. That fear is certainly a reasonable one; in some situations coming out can get you killed or maimed, not to mention many lesser hazards. I don't think anyone should expect us to take life-threatening risks, but whatever the difficulties, we owe it ourselves, our families, and our friends -- including straight friends -- to resolve these problems eventually. I think sooner is usually better than later, too.
Fear of rejection because one is not straight like the majority buries homophobia within us, taints us and makes us to some degree alien and unknowable to ourselves. It says, in essence, that if we are true to who and what we really are, then we can probably expect rejection. Note well that this is predicting an undesirable future for ourselves before anything has really happened. That in turn is a fantasy living within us. It creates a gulf between us and reality, as secrets and dishonesty inevitably do.
With the friend I mention, I was not really afraid of anything especially bad happening -- he was a really cool guy. It was more a matter of not being really open and straightforward with myself about it. At the time I hadn't realized what that did to me, and even less was I concerned about what it might be doing to him. In other words, it was both personally self-denying and socially selfish.
I thought he didn't really need to know. Things were fine as they were, I thought. What this says is that I decided for him what he needed to know, as though I somehow had a right to do that. But actually, that's manipulative; we do not have a right to usurp the sovereignty of others in that way, and even less so if the reason is our own fears, and even less so yet if our fears are really only fantasies.
I can't stress enough the subtle damage done to our emotional lives if we dwell in a world of fantasized loss. To be sure, the losses can be real: parents reject their kids, one can be socially isolated and ostracized. In no way can we skirt these risks, for they are too often real. But it's the prospect of rejection that holds most people back, young people especially, and that's a different matter altogether.
[to be continued]