Thursday, November 29, 2012
Someone just came out of the closet.
Someone who's apparently very popular in Blog World.
Who's obviously not me. (I did my public coming out deal already, remember?)
Someone you might've suspected was "not totally straight" when you read his stuff, but probably didn't spend more than 30 seconds pondering it before you clicked your way to greener cyber pastures.
Someone who's been raked over the coals by other bloggers for being a publicity hound and resorting to some unsavory tactics to crank up his page views.
Someone who writes a lot of short sentences.
And separates them with extra spaces.
For dramatic effect.
Here's the deal. Many of us parent bloggers (dads in particular) see ourselves as comrades in arms -- we read each other, support each other, and are a pretty tight knit community. We don't always agree with each other, and sometimes we call each other on our occasional douche moves, but we're still a collective.
There's one particular blogger, though, who's considered by many to be officially of the Not Cool. He's been accused of being insincere in his posts, of being a shameless self-marketer, of fabricating the truth in some posts, of faking photographic evidence in others. He likes to refer to himself as "honest" and "inspirational" a lot, which rankles folks. As a result, many bloggers tend to be skeptical about what he posts on his site. Including me.
He calls himself Single Dad Laughing
And this week, SDL recently shocked-- well, no one, with his latest honest and inspiration post in which he told his readers that he's just realized he's something "other than straight."
This comes about a month after the guy wrote an advice-based post about failed marriages, amidst other posts about pumpkin pie and photo caption contests.
There's been a lot of skepticism in reaction to his big reveal. I've read many comments on various discussion boards; SDL is being lambasted. Some say he's just trying to drum up some sensationalism because he wants the page hits. Some say he doesn't deserve support because he's a shameless self-marketer. They're saying that the "emotional honesty" in his Coming Out post is insincere and empty, purely designed to pander to readers, begging for their attention and link love.
Interestingly, he was very careful in his post not to refer to himself as "gay," by the way. (And he's being criticized for that too.)
I'm obviously conflicted about the whole thing.
As another dad blogger who's "other than straight" (read: Gay) and came out on his own site last year, I was intrigued about this guy's announcement, as well as the response he's received from the blogosphere.
It would be extremely hypocritical of me to jump on the bandwagon and slam the guy. After all, last March I myself came out publicly on this very blog. Sure, I waited a full year after I'd already told everyone in my life: wife, parents, friends, daughter. But still: I'm someone who outed himself on the Internetz, just like SDL.
I'm glad I did. It was an important step in my own coming out process. My little blog means something to me. I really wanted to keep it going, with as much integrity as possible. Writing my "Hey, I'm Gay" post freed me to start writing about some related issues from a fresher, truer perspective. And more importantly, being fully up front about my orientation has enabled me to become a better, more honest parent to my intrepid, still precocious Mini-Pirate. (Who's in Middle School now, y'all. How the hell did that happen?)
I'm not sure SDL wrote his semi-outing post for any of the above reasons, or if he did it to get back into the white-hot center of the blogiverse where he feels he belongs. I did write him a brief email offering him support, regardless of his motive -- because no matter how much support you have, coming out in your 30s or 40s (or 20s, or 50s, or 150s) is rough. No reply from him yet. I didn't expect one.
SDL is going to get a lot of mileage out of his epiphany. And a lot of page hits. So just in case this starts a trend, and dad bloggers everywhere start outing themselves left and right as "other than straight" (Don't even try it, Beta), I thought I'd offer some tips on how to come out on the Internet really well:
#1 Make Sure You Mean It
Once you say you're gay on the Internet, you're pretty much gay. Sure, you can change your mind -- you can decide later that you're bi, or omni, or just extremely open to suggestion. No one gets to decide what you are but you. Of course. But remember that if you come out on your blog, Twitter feed, or Facebook page, you're making a decision about your identity. And it will be public. You may make it easier on yourself if you hold off on that honest-and-revealing post until you've taken the time to really figure it out.
#2 Remember the Third Grade Teacher Rule
Think about every possible person who doesn't yet know about your orientation, and consider how you feel about the fact that they soon will. If your third grade teacher finds out you're "not straight," will you care? How about your best friend from Middle School? Your Senior Prom date? What about your parents' best friends? Being gay is nothing to be ashamed of -- ideally, you shouldn't have to care about who does and doesn't know. But make sure that's how you feel before going public.
#3 Understand Your Motivation
The best reason to announce something personal about yourself is because doing so will help you keep moving forward on your own path. Don't unfollow me for getting self-helpy here, but if your goal is to live a life that's honest and authentic and fully realized, then yes: there's value in throwing a light on that personal revelation. On the other hand, if you're doing it because you really really really want to be on Oprah and get a book deal, so be it. Just don't pretend otherwise. Readers will see right through it.
#4 Think About How Your News Will Affect Others
When you write about the people in your life, remember that they're not just characters in your poignant drama. They're actual people, and they deserve respect. I had to have this pointed out to me by Saucy after I wrote my own Coming Out post last Spring, and she was right to do so. I thought that because I'd waited a year to write it, I was automatically being respectful and sensitive to family members who'd had that year to deal with it. But the storyteller in me still took them and turned them into supporting players in my little theater. It didn't matter that I said nothing but wonderful things about them. Drawing other people into your story is a delicate matter. The amount of sensitivity you show them now will affect your relationship with them later.
#5 Beware Of Playing The Sympathy Card
This is hard to avoid when bloggers write confessionals. Which many of us have done. Again, I think there's value in writing about personal challenges. Some of my favorite blogs are written by people brave enough to get very personal. They manage to share the tough stuff without rattling a tin cup for pity. I learn a lot from those writers. They help me relate to the larger world. But even the most loyal readers will raise their eyebrows if they feel all you're doing is begging for extra attention in an attempt to boost your self-esteem. Or become Blog-Famous.
I'm pretty sure that I've gone against all of my above advice at some point on this site. Which would make me Galactic Overlord of the Hypocrites, I know. But I'm really glad I came out on this blog last year. It was important to do, whether I handled it well or not. So in the end, I think I have to say that I support SDL's journey, regardless of his motives or how he chooses to handle it. I don't really have a choice.