A while ago, I wrote about being in a new job and not quite knowing if (or to what extent) I wanted to be out to friends and colleagues. This is, I suppose, a follow-up to that post, three months later.
There are a lot of things they don’t tell you about being queer and coming out. I’ve gotten used to the different reactions and the wondering which way people will go. I’ve gotten used used to the idea that you don’t just come out once or twice, but again and again and again.
One thing I haven’t gotten used to yet is not knowing whether you’ve actually come out or not – especially if, like me, you still haven’t done the whole, proper, sit-down-coming-out where you tell people in less-than-ambiguous terms that you’re something other than straight. And are still not sure that it’s either necessary or something you want to do.
Back when I wrote that first post, I had kind of decided that I did want to be out to some extent – at least as someone who is not-straight (rather than someone whose specific brand of queer is aromantic asexual). So I did start being a bit more open about things at work. I decorated my desk wall with a whole bunch of pretty things, including an ace flag and a queer flag. I started working on an LGBTQIA+ (we are yet to decide on actual acronyms) project with a couple of other people in my graduate program, which I talked about with some people at work, including my boss. I put up posters around my floor on IDAHOT (even though I then wasn’t actually there that day, which was a bit unfortunate). I told a couple of people how disgusted and shocked I was when I saw a homophobic poster in a place we went to for drinks one afternoon. One person I work with asked what my ace flag was, to which I replied that those were the asexual colours (and the conversation didn’t go past there).
But despite all those indications an activities and comments, I’ve not actually found (or made) the opportunity to explicitly tell anyone that I’m queer – let alone that I’m actually asexual. The only instance where I’ve said something slightly-less ambiguous was in a conversation about religion and how I used to be Christian, but then found myself questioning a lot of teachings and ideas when I was a teenager, at the same time as when I was also figuring out I wasn’t straight. The person I made that comment to never said anything about it and hasn’t treated me any differently since, so I’m pretty sure that I’m all good there.
And so I’ve found myself in this in-between space, where I don’t actually know whether I’m properly out or not. I don’t know whether people have just accepted all the hints and indications and run with it, and that everything is perfectly fine. I don’t know whether they just haven’t picked up on it. I don’t know whether I’m just seen as an active ally, or as queer myself. I don’t know who actually knows a lot more than they let on – like in the one case, where I found out that three of the people in my queer project group had actually found my blog and knew I was ace even before I had made any comments about it whatsoever. (Two of them then asked me out for coffee to talk about it. In a way, I much prefer that super-direct approach to all this uncertainty.)
But they don’t tell you that about coming out. That for a long time, you might not even know if your coming-out strategy (if you choose one of the more indirect kind) has been successful or not. Whether people have actually picked up on everything and are ok with it, or whether they’re just choosing not to deal with it.
In my case, I’m pretty sure that everyone I work with at least has the suspicion that I’m not straight. I don’t think anyone assumes (except maybe the one person who asked about the flag) I’m asexual, which to be honest, makes me feel dishonest at times. Being asexual is a big part of who I am, and ties into a whole lot of other bits and pieces about how I see my life happening, like how I want to live in a tiny house and be financially independent and not really be in a partnered relationship. I really like and respect and trust the people I work with, and yet I still feel wary of the idea of marking myself as something other than a generic ‘not-straight,’ and I’m not entirely sure why. I worry that if I explicitly say something now, or don’t say anything at all, then it will seem like I’m hiding, or that I don’t trust the people I work with (and honestly, have gotten pretty close to over the last months). I have been having so many thoughts about this that I actually spent two whole days of a camping trip with this as my most pressing fire-side contemplation. (Where I fully resolved to properly come out to people, which then did not happen once I actually got back to work, because apparently I wimped out of that one.)
So that’s where I’m at, since that other post – somehow further down the coming-out track, but still not entirely there – mainly because the track has gotten really overgrown and I’m having to cut my own way through the bushes. And I think a lot of ace people are probably in the same boat as me – ‘out’ to some extent (whether that be as queer, or as not-straight, or as not interested in dating, whatever), but never entirely sure of where they stand, what details about them are known and not-known. Especially if they have a not-insignificant online profile that could be stumbled across any day, you know, just as an added bonus. Or not being sure whether adding ‘asexual’ to ‘some form of queer’ is going to tip things over from ok to ‘that’s just ridiculous,’ and whether it’s worth that risk. So, if anyone reading this knows me in real life, or knows another person who they suspect is queer or ace – why not say something? Just quietly, or through a throwaway comment, over coffee, as a joke, as a question. Sometimes we need a bit of encouragement to realise whether we’re actually navigating this whole coming-out thing successfully or not.