Coming out to my parents was hard enough, but I had a lot of explaining to do when I told my friends I was going to come out by way of email. “Why don’t you just tell them in person? Are you afraid of what they’ll say?” some friends wondered. “It’s so impersonal,” others complained. “I’d at least call them on the phone if I were you.” But that was the thing… they weren’t me.
Coming out is often a difficult conversation, and there are a number of reasons I choose to address difficult conversations in writing. First, when it comes to this kind of thing, I write much better than I speak. When I get nervous, I stumble around my vocabulary, bump into awkward phrases, scramble for misplaced words, and choke on emotions that crawl up my throat and make my eyes water. What’s worse, if I mess up and have to correct myself, I come across as uncertain and apologetic, which is not at all the display of confidence I want to exude. When I write, I take my time to collect just the right words; I line them up like soldiers on the page, in exactly the order they need to be. If any get out of line, I whisk them away with the delete key, and no one even knows they existed. By the time my words reach their destination, they’ve been tweaked and polished and they march in step, all the way to the end of the page.
Second, when a conversation takes place in person, there is a lot of opportunity for someone to interrupt me, especially if I’m busy searching for words. I might have practiced my speech in the mirror a hundred times, but as soon as my loved one interrupts with a rebuttal to something I say, my prepared speech is out the window. Now I have to put my speech on pause in order to argue a point, and who knows if I’ll ever get to say the things I prepared. When I deliver my thoughts in written form, they all arrive intact and on time. If my loved one needs to stop reading for one reason or another, my words will wait in perfect formation until my loved one is ready to look at them again.
Finally, when I’m talking to someone in person and they start to cry, it completely derails me. It makes me wonder if I should step away and let them have some privacy. If we’re in a public place, my loved one might feel embarrassed and ashamed of their tears. When I came out to my parents, I wanted them to be able to express whatever emotions came over them. It was important that they be allowed to grieve and to process this information at their own pace and in their own way.
My decision to come out via email had nothing to do with fear or cowardice. My friends thought I was being disrespectful in my “impersonal” method, but the truth was I was showing respect the best way I knew how. It was showing respect not only to my parents, but also to myself. I wanted to respect my own strengths and give myself the best chance to say everything I had to say.
It’s your coming out. You need to decide how to make it work best for you. In the end, what matters most is not how you come out, but that you respect yourself in the process.