Rarely do I speak the words, “I am gay (or lesbian).” Although very early in my being out process, I attempted this strategy at work, rather unsuccessfully. This happened years ago when gay marriage was but a blip on the radar screen. I was working at a private psychiatric hospital and it was the end of a very long workday. I walked my last client out to the lobby, and, after saying goodbye, the receptionist said I had a personal call waiting. She asked if I wanted the call transferred to my office, or if I wanted to take it there at the front desk. I opted to take the call right there in the lobby. After transferring the call, she picked up her Bible and started reading again – which is how she spent her time between calls. The call was brief. I talked about what time I’d be home, what I wanted to do for dinner, then I hung up the phone.

The receptionist, with whom I had never had much communication, turned to me and said, “You’re married, right, Michele?” And I casually replied, “Nope, not married.” So she followed up with, “Well, you’re engaged, aren’t you?” To which I again replied, “Nope, not engaged either.” Finally she gives up and innocently said, “Well, why did I think that?” And as nonchalantly as I had replied to the questions before, I said, “I’m not sure why, either, because I’m gay.” To my surprise, she burst into laughter, only pausing long enough to respond with a playful, “You’re so funny, you’re always joking!” We both smiled and I headed back to my office.

As I tried out various strategies for revealing the truth about my life and my relationships, I discovered that it was much easier (and often more fun) to stop working so hard to break things down for other people. Over time I just stopped censoring anything (within reason!) that I said about my relationship, my partner, and all of the usual social topics shared with friends, acquaintances, family, and even strangers. If I’m talking about my partner, I say, “my partner” and I use the pronoun “she.” There – I’m out. It’s that easy.

If, for example, I need to hire a service person to fix my toilet, I will indicate that I may not be there, but my partner Teresa will be when he arrives. I don’t pause for permission or acceptance, and I don’t invite comments or feedback about my sexual orientation either. To do so would indicate that it matters to me what the plumber (not Joe) thinks about my relationship status – I’ve invited him to my house to fix my toilet, not to judge my relationship. I will not pretend I have a husband or that I am single so that the plumber feels more comfortable. Sadly, there was a time I would have, though.

One of my favorite stories about how this strategy does not always work without a hitch is the time Teresa and I went car shopping. When we arrived on the lot we started looking at various vehicles and because I was the primary driver-to-be of this new car, I was most verbal about what I liked and didn’t like. It never dawned on me that the salesman didn’t get that we were a couple – I just didn’t think about it.

So you can imagine my surprise when we are test driving a car and he’s in the back seat, unsuccessfully making small talk. Midway through the test drive he asks, “So are you two sisters?” And I respond immediately with, “No, we’re partners.” Still not getting it, he asks, “Really, what’s your business?” And I reply with one word: “Love.”

I vote we raise the bar. Instead of striving to come out, let’s be more specific about this – let’s set our sights on the never ending process of being out.

Author's Bio: 

Michele O’Mara, LCSW is a 1992 graduate of Indiana University (IUPUI) with her Masters in Social Work. As a private practice therapist she has been working with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender clients since 1997. She has authored two books, created multiple educational classes, workshops, and community presentations. In 2002 Michele become a certified Imago Therapist,and she is currently pursuing a PhD in Sexology, with an anticipated graduation date of 2012. She recently also developed a lesbian social network at www.theLcafe.com

A complete list of credentials include:

* Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the state of Indiana (License # 34003162A)
* Certified Imago Relationship Therapist, Imagotherapy.org
* Certified by the ACRPS (Accredited Relapse Prevention Specialist)
* Certified by the ABS ( Academy of Bereavement Professionals)
* ACSW (Academy of Clinical Social Workers)
* Member, National Association of Social Workers
* Member of the Harry Benjamin Association, now known as World Professional Association for Transgender Health or WPATH
* Member of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Teachers

She was also voted ”Indianapolis’ Best Gay Couple’s Therapist” according to the Indianapolis Monthly, 2005. And she is currently back in school working toward her PhD in Clinical Sexology. She is expected to graduate in May, 2012.