2016, for all its faults, is looking like the Year of Coming Out, at least from where I see things.
I say this because more friends than ever came out of the closet to me this year.
One woman came out as bisexual. An affable and beautiful artist, she bravely came out to her parents as well. My partner, Anita Dolman and I, supported her wholeheartedly.
A close friend, but still a very valued one, came out at as bi as well to my partner and I. She has been divorced from a man for several years and we didn't know she was bi because she wasn't very vocal about her sexuality. To paraphrase Woody Allen, being bi does double your chances of meeting someone (He actually said "Bisexuality immediately doubles your chances for a date on Saturday night."). Joking aside, we feel that we have found another ally somehow.
A co-worker of mine, with his gelled-up hair dyed a different colour - or mix of colours - on a monthly basis, also came out to me as pansexual. I came out to him as being bi. Then I went home and asked my wife what pansexual was.
"It's what the younger generation is calling bi, only they don't make distinctions about who they love, whether another person is a man or woman, trans or queer."
"I'm already that, but we don't call it that."
"It's because we're old," she replied with more than a dollop of irony.
"If that's the case, then this means that in my twenties, I was pansexual before pansexual was pan!" I answered with a modicum of satisfaction. "I was sleeping with everybody, from drag queens to men to women."
"Yes, you did have a fondness for drag queens," she replied.
It should be noted that the adjective pansexual is defined as "not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity."
As well, a transexual friend is realzing who they are. They have been out to one parent since they were a teenager and out to their longtime partner for decades. Still, they have discovered that, like declaring one's queer identity, you sometimes have to come out of the closet again and again. And often the closet is mistaken for just wanting your privace. As my friend puts it, there are "all sorts of closets of all sorts of shapes and sizes."
I'm there for them in any way I can be because they have been there for me.
They are, as of yet, still staying quietly closeted, unsure of what friends will expect if they do come out. As well,this friend is still working through coming out to their parents. They're also working out how they want to express themselves as trans.
So that's why I'm calling 2016 the Year of Coming Out.
In fall 2014, a close friend of mine came out and told myself and my partner that he had been secretly seeing a man for about a year. Things were looking not so much serious as permanent, so he wanted to come out to everyone around him, one at a time. I admired his courage and his deliberatenss in doing so. He came out to me at Irene's Pub, a local drinking hole with cozy booths. I found out that he came out to my best friend in the same environs.
I had worried that he was lonely. So, after years of my worrying that he wasn't seeing anyone or doing any dating at all, it turned out that he had met someone online and that someone had turned into his boyfriend. At the same time, my friend had also been dating a woman - the rogue! - and made a decision about whether he would date the woman or the man.
This news, and this secret, overjoyed me. It meant to me that he had a chance at happiness, and has taken it, instead of being the romantic recluse that I had though he was this past decade.
A few months back, I sat across from the aforementioned best friend at the pub, drinking and pontificating about how many people we know - or at least that my partner and I know - who came out of the closet this year.
Ten years ago, my partner and I thought that everyone was queer until proven otherwise. Since then, our friends close and distant have slowly but steadily revealed who they truly are or have realized who they are, at least partially.
My pal, with whom I have been through nearly three decades of everything, sitting there with his pint of stout, mistook my comments for a prompt for him to come out. He looked up at the T.V. bolted to the wall of the bar. Two men were doing a competition whereby they took an axe to a tree and compete to see who could fell the trunk first. This event was followed by an archery competition.
"I'm as straight as that," my friend said, pointing at the archer letting loose an arrow at a target.
"Really?" I replied. "As straight as an arrow?" I rolled my eyes. "You couldn't have said it another way? Or some such statement.
Nevertheless, the realization that so many people I know are coming to grips with their own self-realization gives me great hope in a year that has been bereft of hope at times.
I refer to the passing of artistic talent at the genius level. The passing of David Bowie. The passing of Prince, And, of course, the passing of Montreal's man, poet and singer Leonard Cohen. The prognosis of Tragically Hip leadsinger Gord Downie has also added to the terribleness of 2016.
This has been a rough year, ending on a particularly dark political note.
But I digress.
But hope is a rare and good and beautiful thing. It's a gift. And with each friend who told me who they are this year, I felt that much better about humanity. I'm not that kid in his twenties trying to figure it out, and feelng alone. Now I'm here for them. I also feel like I have bet on the right horses* and am lucky to have these friends still.
*= Blogger's Note: Please note that this expression was borrowed from Anita Dolman.