Eric Marcus

Help! I'm Afraid to Come Out!

Filed By Eric Marcus | December 21, 2008 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: coming out of the closet, in the closet

Hello Mr. Marcus,
I'm a 48 yr. old man who is in a long-term, loving, committed relationship with another man whom I live with. I'm out to all my friends and family and even some business associates. We live in a very conservative, Southwestern town. Since I'm a musician, a few months ago I posted a listing on a musicians board and separately met three other musicians. I got the four of us together and we've formed a band of sorts. They are all hetero with wives and children and live in the same town as I do.

I want to tell them I'm gay, but want to make sure my timing is right. Of course, under the circumstances, I didn't want to lead with that information since it might have been premature. (I never lead with it anyway, I'm an artist and a man who happens to be gay, not a Gay male artist.) I wanted to wait and see if we clicked musically before offering up this type of personal information. Living in a small town, I felt it was safer to be cautious. They both live very close to my house and well... you just never know what could happen.

Now, six encouraging rehearsals later...

...they are talking of adding another musician and getting really serious about the band. We sound really great together. My problem is in telling them, might I wreck the band if they react badly? I certainly don't want to be in a band that would feel negatively towards a gay member, but I also feel that by not telling them, my omissions are somewhat a form of lying. I know that even if I don't tell them, it may eventually get out somehow. By not sharing what I do on weekends or what my "family" is like (as they tend to do), I feel like I'm a mystery to them and feel a bit strange about that. In a perfect world, I would have already told them and they would have said "who cares?"

Keep in mind, I really don't know these guys outside of rehearsal. One seems laid back and might be OK with it but the other seems pretty conservative. We've never eaten a meal together or done anything extra-curricular outside of rehearsal in one member's basement. Therefore, I have no "compass" to guide me on what their reactions might be. I also have a history of having told other musicians in the past and getting really horrible reactions, which adds my baggage to the situation. I think this may have something to do with the fact that I'm not outwardly the type that most of non-gay society sees as a stereotypical gay male so it wasn't guessed ahead of time (which might have made it easier). I also feel that in the past, my timing was bad because I waited so long into the band relationships. I'm sure those bandmates in the past were mostly mad that I wasn't honest in the first place. However, if I had been honest about my sexuality, I wouldn't have gotten into the bands.

What do you suggest I do? I'm really in a quandary about this and am not sleeping well. I hope you can advise me. I want to stay in this band and make good music, but not at the price of hiding my situation simply to make them comfortable.

Strung Out

Dear Strung Out,
From what you wrote it seems clear that you have no choice but to come out to the other musicians. Hiding yourself from them is costing you sleep and making you unhappy. It doesn't sound to me like you would want to stay in the band if you had to continue to hide.

So this is my suggestion: The next time it seems natural (i.e., the kind of thing you would do if there were no fear of a negative reaction) to talk about what you did on the weekend or to talk about something that would make it clear that you have a male partner, do it! You don't have to sit them down and explain that you're gay and live with a man. If they're talking about their weekends, you can say something about what "we did over the weekend." And when it fits be sure to use the male pronoun, as in "he" and not the neutral "person." If they have half a brain (and given that they're musicians they have highly developed brains) they'll get it.

I think you're right that it's a problem to wait too long. Straight people have feelings, too! They don't like to feel like they're being lied to, even if it's a lie of omission. It can feel like a betrayal to them to discover that you've been hiding something from them that is so central to you.

Another option is to have your partner come to one of your performances and then to introduce him as your partner. No big deal, unless you make it one. Given that we are contemporaries I know all too well the fear that you're struggling against--fear of being judged (negatively), fear of being rejected, fear of being made to feel bad.

I know it's easy for me to say that you should just be yourself, but you should just be yourself and stop over-thinking this. You're going to wind up tying yourself in such a knot that you won't enjoy your time with the band.

Good luck and let me know what you decide to do. All best, Eric

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I wish Strung Out luck! I am a musician, and also transgender. I've had a few situations where I was no longer on the "call list" for gigs after outing myself to fellow musicians.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | December 21, 2008 11:44 AM


This is great advice as usual. I've found that when I act like being gay is no big deal, people are much more comfortable.

Another option is to have your partner come to one of your performances and then to introduce him as your partner. No big deal, unless you make it one.

This is how I handle it each and every time. Sound advice all around, Eric, but that point alone is worth the dollar.

I would also remind the questioner that it was YOU who formed the group. YOU who launched it and brought the people together. Whether you realize it or not, you have already taken a leadership role with regards to causing the chain of events that brought this band together, and if anyone has a problem with your sexual orientation, they should leave YOUR band, not the other way around.

I've played in bands for over 35 years, and these days I COULD NOT play in a group where one member considered me as "less than".

I'd mention my orientation BEFORE the first rehearsal, as I would not want to waste my time starting something that might not work out well.

"Uh, before we get together I wanted to mention that I am gay, so if anyone has a problem with that you need to tell me right now."

I'm not outwardly the type that most of non-gay society sees as a stereotypical gay male so it wasn't guessed ahead of time (which might have made it easier).

I think I'd also remind "Strung Out" that Friends of Dorothy come in all shapes and temperaments. Joining a GLBT musician's group and the glbt chamber of commerce might help in personally and professionally.