gay men don’t need pressure

Ricky Martin on Oprah Yesterday

I rarely ever have time to watch Oprah at four o’clock in the afternoon. But I made the time yesterday because I’d heard Ricky Martin was going to be her guest. Not just because I’m a fan of his music, but also because I’ve been following his story as a gay man for a long time.

When he did the Barbara Walters interview years ago and didn’t admit he was gay, I knew he was side-stepping. And I didn’t blame him either. As a writer and journalist I knew what Babs was doing and I think Ricky Martin held his own very well during that interview. I know a lot of gay people were disappointed. We all would have bet money he was, in fact, gay. But he obviously wasn’t ready to come out to the world, and we should all respect that.

His interview with Oprah yesterday was honest, and I think it came from the heart this time. Evidently, it took him years to accept himself as a gay man, and he seems to be doing well after such a long struggle. How do I know he was being honest? Because I’m gay and I’ve experienced every single emotion, feeling and struggle he spoke about yesterday. I also noticed the signs of discomfort in his eyes at certain points during the Oprah interview. I’ve seen and experienced that same discomfort myself on many occassions.

But he said one thing that was of particular interest to me, both as a gay man and a writer. He mentioned that gay people should only come out when they are ready to come out. They shouldn’t be pressured…or bullied…by anyone to come out before they are ready, not even by gay people. It’s a sensitive issue and there shouldn’t be any rules set by anyone, especially not by other members of the lgbt community. Something like this happened to one of my nephews last year. He was pressured into coming out of the closet by some pushy little facebook queen who should have been minding his own business. Luckily, my nephew has two gay uncles he can go to for support. But I didn’t think he was ready to come out yet, and he went through a huge struggle because he wasn’t ready. It’s all calmed down now. But it could have been much easier for him if he’d waited a while and taken the time to really understand the magnitude of coming out.

I receive a lot of e-mails from readers about this topic. I know the straight liberals, whom I love dearly, like to think everything is coming up roses and daffodils for gay men these days. They tell me about all the options gay men have and about all the opportunities that weren’t around a long time ago. But what these liberal well-wishers fail to realize is that accepting and admitting you’re gay is still a huge life altering experience, for men or women. It takes time and a whole lot of soul-searching to reach the point where they are ready to admit they are gay. And no one should ever feel pressured into coming out of the closet.

I’d like to thank Ricky Martin for having the courage to come out the way he did in public. And, for having the courage to remain in the closet until he knew he was ready to come out. At least now when I receive a letter from a gay man who is confused about coming out, I can use Ricky Martin as an example. And trust me, there are plenty of gay men and women out there who are still struggling with this issue and the last thing they need is more pressure than they already have.

Hope Barbara Walters understands this, too. Because the next time she badgers someone into coming out of the closet on Oscar night they might just turn on her. I know I would have, and I would have done it with a great big smile, too 🙂