What “Coming Out” Really Means

Two things converged this month that caused me to coalesce my thoughts more clearly on the cultural tragedy of “coming out” as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, etc.

Of course, the more obvious event was that this past October 11 was “National Coming Out Day,” marking the anniversary of the 1987 March on Washington for “lesbian and gay rights.”

The less obvious event—even if you’re from my hometown of St. Louis—was the recent (and St. Louis-based) “Miss Gay America” pageant, held October 3-6, in which was crowned a new winner, “Andora Te’Tee,” a man apparently quite gifted in “the art of female illusion.”

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Believe me—the drag practitioners of this pageant were definitely “out of the closet.”

But, wait. Why have we so easily forgotten that, before the 1960s brought us “coming out of the closet,” there was no “closet”? There was just “coming out.” And the sordid, immoral, and degrading original context for “coming out” is something we must choose to remember once again.

For the upper-class society of bygone years, there was no doubt at all what “coming out” was, as this was long before the universe of homosexuality co-opted the phrase. A coming-out party was, for the adolescent socialite girl, a way to celebrate—and advertise—the new, nubile, and freshly “marriageable” status she achieved as a “debutante” as early as age fifteen. It was largely a social means of a family’s announcing to the rest of their social circle, particularly the men, that Jane Smith was now ready to draw the attention of potential suitors for marriage, and all that that implied.

Part of what that implied was that a girl had reached sexual maturity and was thus capable of assuming all the duties of marriage from that point forward—including as a mother as well as a wife. Indeed, there was a sense in which coming-out parties served as a showcase of young girls as objects of sexual desire. They were on display for the young men of their communities, in hopes that a match for marriage might emerge between the girl and some lucky guy with the right pedigree.

Gay Men Emulate Debutante Parties
There significance was not lost upon homosexual men of the early twentieth century. These men who often chose to express their homosexuality by dressing in “drag” began to emulate both the style and, significantly, the purpose of coming-out parties from which young homosexual men would emerge as objects of sexual desire.

This model was an ideal fit for homosexual men. The campiness of drag shows merged perfectly with an ironic commentary on polite society’s activities, all the while functioning in precisely the same way as coming-out parties did for that social class. Drag parties emerged in the early decades of the twentieth century, for which homosexual men dressed as women, and, significantly, adolescent homosexual men played the role of “debutantes” (“debs”) as their first formal act of inclusion into the fraternity of homosexuals of their time.

And this hardly occurred “in the closet” of the era; such drag parties were public knowledge and were not held in private. Certainly, in the subdued circles of homosexual men of that era, personal identities would have been kept out of the public eye, but what of the identities of the drag-queen debutantes who opted to be part of those “coming-out parties”? The homosexual circle would definitely have taken note of who you were.

These young homosexual “debs” were displayed as sexually capable adolescents as much as their female counterparts in polite society were. This was an announcement to the larger homosexual community that they were indeed ready for sexual activity. The fact that it was teen boys coming out in drag was part of the titillation, and all notions of teen sexual abuse and age of consent were “in the closet.”

This had its origin in the era before “orientation ideology” took hold or “sexual identity” was consciously expressed. This was the era in which a “homosexual man” was any man who did these things—i.e., performed these sex acts or expressed themselves either overtly or subtly as feminine or effeminate. “Coming out,” therefore, has its roots NOT in “who I am” but rather as an expression of what I’m now old enough to “do.”

“Coming Out” in the Civil Rights Era
We have forgotten all this because LGBTQIA “pride” demands that we do. The gears truly shifted when, in the 1960s, there emerged a new social project—the legitimization of these same acts, i.e., the things “done,” by de-stigmatizing those who were doing them. Its hiddenness from polite society was no longer a boon for the modern “gay” man—it was a mark of oppression. The battle cry was now about how my “I”—my truest self—had been made to languish “in the closet.” The civil rights era was ripe for imitation, and “gay rights” emerged as the focus of the homosexual’s consciousness. In this era, coming out became an escape from unjust oppression, and “pride” held sway as a means of achieving a form of justice against the cruelty inflicted upon this newly vocal “community” by society at large.

There was only one problem with this scenario: “coming out” never did shed its practical roots as a system for producing “debutantes” ready to take on their role as fresh, new objects of sexual desire for the existing community. It remains that to “come out” still means that “I am the kind of person that is now ready to engage in these kinds of acts, because I’m sexually capable of them.”

Additionally, “coming out” has an ironically “procreative” dimension. It is the only means to enlarge the otherwise-sterile “LGBTQIA community,” and increasing and multiplying are key to the political juggernaut this community has become and key to ensuring that fresh-faced young men find their way in—with literally no way out once they are “out”—as new fodder for the sexual exploitations ingrained into the group. This is why a community built on “coming out” MUST insist that “orientation” is fixed, permanent, and immutable. Once they have you, they really have you. Like the Hotel California, you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

Priest Predators Follow the Model
Maybe by now, dear reader, you see the direct connection this has to the Catholic Church. This is where things really get disturbing.

What I have described to you as the origin of “coming out” in its drag-based original concept—something still revered and practiced by the “LGBT community” today (with approved drag shows now prevalent even on Catholic college campuses!)—is at its core a classic form of the kind of “grooming” tactics used by sexual predators in gaining access to victims.

“Predator” and “victim” are two words we’re not supposed to apply to homosexual encounters between teens and older homosexuals, right? We’re not supposed to notice “age of consent” for sex in many states—sixteen—is morally quite problematic, even when a teen that young says “yes” to homosexual sex. The environment of a drag party in which these young children—yes, children—might be the center of attention as sexual objects is emotionally intoxicating and toxic. However, we are told not to worry; homosexuality is “normal”—the professional psychologists tell us so.

Until it comes to what happened in the Catholic Church. Here is what I mean: the landscape of life in the Church, and particularly at the parish level, is and was easy for a homosexual priest to slightly modify in order to achieve a dynamic very similar to that which I describe above, straight out of the history of homosexuality’s “coming out.” The despicable “grooming mentality” was employed in both landscapes. A priest who hides his homosexuality could enter a Catholic universe in which he had at one time unmitigated access to adolescent teen boys who, through immaturity, their own sexual confusion, or perhaps in some cases “consensually” (i.e., ones never reported as abuse), found themselves sexually compromised by the priest’s willingness to “do” the acts that are associated with “being” homosexual.

This is precisely why so many people who should know better adamantly refuse to call the sex-abuse crisis a homosexual sex-abuse crisis. Doing so reveals the commonality with “coming out” that exists in our own backyard. Shedding light on the Church’s abuse crisis as a homosexual problem also demands that we pull back the veil upon the “pride” of “coming out” to reveal the sordid reality underneath.

That sordid truth remains today—“coming out” fixes a person’s “Identity” such that they MUST believe and accept something about themselves that the larger community wants—demands, really—from its members. It demands that I consider myself, irrevocably and forever, the kind of person who DOES these kinds of acts, acts which are, for me, “normal and natural” and not immoral in the least.

“Coming out” populates the “LGBT community” with new members—i.e., new sex objects—under the guise of “pride.” More aptly, it grooms the confused adolescent for a lifetime—an inescapable lifetime—of potential sexual victimization and the potential victimization of others. The truth about “coming out” also illuminates the truth that, in the Church’s abuse crisis, homosexual priest predators were merely applying similar grooming principles to satisfy their own sexual desires, whether through abuse or through consensual same-sex acts.

Tragically, young people everywhere are now urged to “come out” as an act of liberation, when in truth it is a participation in a now-venerable form of subjugation, oppression, and even possible victimization.

Are we, to satisfy our twisted mob culture, to take “pride” in this?

No thank you—we need to do all we can to protect our young people and help them find a way out of “coming out.”

(Photo credit: Shutterstock)


  • Jim Russell

    Jim Russell lives in St. Louis, Missouri. He writes on a variety of topics related to the Catholic faith, including natural law, liturgy, theology of the body, and sexuality. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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