The Fine Art Of Being Come Out To

A Straight Person's Guide To Gay Etiquette

by The Plaid Adder

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INTRODUCTION: What Emily Post Never Taught You

You want to be polite. It's only natural. Your mother raised you right, and the idea of inadvertently causing anyone even the slightest embarrassment pains you deeply. And so far, you've been doing pretty well. You talk to old and partially mad relatives at family reunions, and pretend that they are making sense. You nod patiently and intently as your seatmate on Greyhound explains to you at length and in exhaustive detail exactly how Lee Harvey Oswald was abducted and cloned by aliens and why this solves the problem of the grassy knoll. At your friends' children's piano recitals, you refrain from clutching your head, screaming, "STOP, STOP, FOR GOD'S SAKE MAKE IT STOP!!!" and charging the bench with the object of ending the piece, the child's piano career, and everyone's misery.

But you're worried. You know, from various statistics that have seeped into your brain via the media, that approximately one in ten Americans is either gay or lesbian. And yet, to your knowledge, no one you know is homosexual. Since you know more than ten people, you can only assume that this is because your gay and lesbian acquaintances are still in the closet, at least relative to you. Your fear is that one day, one of them is bound to come out to you -- and you won't know what to do.

You want to do what's right. But this wasn't covered in Home Ec. Miss Manners remains silent on the subject. You'd ask your mother, but she wouldn't understand. And if you knew which of your friends were gay or lesbian, you wouldn't be in this fix in the first place. What to do?

Well, friend, fret no longer. Right here, in your eager little hand, you are holding the world's first ever, comprehensive, all-inclusive, guaranteed ticket out of the morass of confusion, embarrassment and general lameness in which your less fortunate heterosexual friends will doubtless remain mired. Yes, it's The Fine Art of Being Come Out To: A Straight Person's Guide to Gay Etiquette. Our highly disciplined and well-bred research teams will walk you through everything you need to know in order to become the savvy, suave, sensitive person you truly want to be. We'll show you how to avoid some of the common pitfalls, and how to cope with the different situations in which coming out is likely to occur. We'll show you how to identify potential comings-out and make things easier for the outcomer, and take you through a list of things not to do in this situation. Once you've mastered the basics, we'll move on to more advanced situations, such as The Accidental Coming-Out, Explaining that you Value his Friendship, and Coming Out With A 'Phobe About. We guarantee that after you've read and absorbed the information available to you in this gem of a volume, you'll have gay and lesbian acquaintances lining up around the block for the sheer pleasure of breaking the news to someone as sophisticated and savvy as you are.

Of course, The Big Announcement isn't the be-all and end-all of gay etiquette. That's why we also include -- and at no extra cost! -- an extensive section on Beyond Coming Out: Long-Term Strategies For Not Pissing Your Gay Friends Off. This handy guide will introduce you to some of the common problems that crop up between gay and lesbian folks and their well-meaning straight friends, and how to avoid letting them fester and rankle until what used to be a valuable and sustaining emotional bond becomes a suppurating mass of resentment and bitterness. LEARN why discussing procreation is often a bad idea! FEEL the seething irritation that mounts in the hearts of a gay couple as they are forced to sit through the videotape of your nuptial ceremony! SEE a promising friendship cut tragically short by the apparently harmless words, "If more gay people were like you, there wouldn't be so much homophobia around"! Yes, we'll show you not only how to make new friends, but keep the old! We slice! We dice! Truly a dream machine!

Of course, no volume of this size and scope can hope to fully encapsulate the breadth and diversity of the gay and lesbian community. Although we strive always for inclusivity, there may be situations we do not cover, or advice that will not hold true in all situations. This book is but a tool, imperfect and limited like all of mortal existence, and the results you will get depend on the skill with which you use it. If you have the emotional intelligence of an excited rhinoceros, we fear that even our expertise will be of little avail in your fight to protect yourself from ridicule and humiliation. But with a little sensitivity, some common sense, and the ability to adopt, adapt and improve, we trust that you will be able to translate our modest effort into a lifetime of smooth sailing across the usually-troubled waters of sexual identity in the 1990s. Bon Voyage!

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Copyright 1996 The Plaid Adder. Do not reproduce this material without the express permission of the author.