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Coming Out, 1982

STORY: During my first few years in NYC, I only had one foot out of the closet. I had my gay friends, and I had my straight friends and coworkers which I neatly compartmentalized. I don’t think it was really a conscious effort on my part to separate my gay life from the rest. I simply didn’t know when to bring up my sexuality in conversations with straight friends and co-workers.

It would have been easier if I had had a boyfriend, but I didn’t. Then, I could have more easily interjected into conversations:

“Oh, I can’t have dinner tonight, I’m going out with my boyfriend”. That would have been much easier than blurting out “Sorry, I can’t make it tonight. I already have plans to go to the Manhole!”

As it happened, one weekend day I was working in my firm’s midtown office. My friend, Debbie, was the only one other person there that day. The main phone rang and she answered it.

“Tom, it’s for you!”

It was my friend, David, calling to figure out what we were going to do that night. After a short conversation, I hung up. I could tell something had changed and sensed something was about to happen. A minute or so later, Debbie wandered into my office, talking about something random.

“Uh-oh, busted!” I thought to myself. “She’s going to ask if I am gay.” I really didn’t want to have that conversation right then, as I was deep in work.

“Tom, can I ask you a question?”

Here it comes, I thought and clenched my teeth.

“Are you gay?’

I hesitated for a moment, worried that my disclosure might create a new discomfort between us.

“Umm…yeah,” I replied, holding my breath.

“Do you want to go out with my brother?” she eagerly responded.

One foot, out of the closet.

—Tom Walker


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