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Smutting up and coming out
When straight people ask how old I was when I came out, I’m never sure what to say. As most queers will understand, coming out isn’t something you do just once. I can remember the first time, at 15, telling my best friend after she came out to me, and I can remember telling my parents when I was 19 after returning from a year abroad, shagging my way across Europe. But in retrospect, what feels like the real milestones seem almost inconsequential in terms of who I was coming out to.
That same year abroad, on my first day working as a bartender in Birmingham, a colleague asked me if I was gay. It was a reasonable ques
tion — I’d just been telling her about a trial shift at a gay bar I’d had the night before. The trial hadn’t worked out, as every time an attractive patron smiled at me I got so nervous I’d pour Bacardi all over my pants; anyone stupid enough to take me home that night would have felt like they were having sex with a piña colada.
My immediate response to my colleague’s question was, no, I’m not. She turned back to her work, and I interrupted her, asking, “Wait, what did you say?” She repeated the question, and I responded that I was. I said I’d misheard her the first time.
Experiences like that taught me it’s easier to be pre-emptive. My friends now groan whenever I make a dirty joke or obscene hand gesture (maybe I do it more than I realise) but I never used to have such a reputation for smut. I’ve learnt to slip jokes about gobbies in public places into the first five minutes of meeting someone new — it’s an easier way to disclose than months later, when my only response to being grilled on Michelle Obama’s sex appeal is to gasp, “I’m gay!”.
A year or so ago, I came out in my last bastion of non-disclosure: my comic book store. After months of “subtle” hints (“I would totally fuck Wolverine”) it became painfully apparent they had no idea.
When I mentioned a mutual friend’s boyfriend they were clearly surprised — they didn’t know he was gay either — but not as much as they were to my follow up comment: “We’re everywhere”.
I felt a little bad about it — it’s one thing to come out, it’s quite another to imply the existence of a vast gay conspiracy. But as the conversation got filthier the store immediately became another extension of my expanding smut-dome. I assume I’ll always be coming out, but I’ve found ways to make it easier.
Follow Ben Riley on twitter @bencriley