My boyfriend and I were together for five years, which is a pretty long time for a lot of modern romances—so much so that I thought we’d be tying the knot soon. But instead of a proposal, he delivered a revelation that shook me to my core: he came out as gay. Amidst the life changes, here’s what I learned and some of my thoughts about what happened.
It’s OK not to be OK. Anyone who receives this kind of news would be reeling in shock. I definitely was, and that’s OK. It’s normal to feel angry, hurt, betrayed, or horrified. I know I felt all of those things and it took me a long time to process it. This was a relationship I thought would last a lifetime, after all. Allowing myself to grieve and be honest about my feelings was what helped me work through them.
It was just as painful for him as it was for me. This was a big step for my partner to take. Making a life-changing revelation and deciding to step away from a secure, long-term relationship to follow his truth takes guts. When he came out, I tried my best to be supportive and to ask questions calmly despite my anger. This allowed him to fully explain himself and his side of the story, which actually helped me find closure in the months that followed. Knowing what he was going through, why he was with me, and how much it hurt him when he realized he could never love me as I loved him allowed me to see things from his perspective. Don’t get me wrong, it still hurt badly, but at least I understood.
There’s no point wondering which “signs” you missed. When I was still reeling from the news, I started to isolate some moments, like my partner expressing an interest in fashion or enjoying RuPaul’s Drag Race, as signs that I should have noticed. But trying to find “gotcha” moments from memory based on stereotypical ideas of gay men was pointless and reductive. While of course stereotypes are often based on some truth, virtually no one fits into one specific box. Like everyone else, gay people are, well, people. They’re multi-faceted, and my ex-partner is too.
It’s not my fault. It’s impossible to “turn” your partner gay. That literally never happens and is a very harmful idea to toss around. There are tons of different factors that can influence an individual’s sexual orientation. I blamed myself a lot when my partner first came out, but I didn’t do anything wrong. He is who he is and it has nothing to do with me.
It’s not my partner’s fault either. I remember feeling a lot of anger when my boyfriend told me he was gay. Why hadn’t he noticed sooner? Why hadn’t he said something before? Had he been leading me on for five years? Society, while slightly more accepting now, is still not exactly the most welcoming towards the LGBT community. Coming out can be traumatic and coming to terms with your orientation can be very difficult for many. If there was more support for the LGBT community in general, he likely wouldn’t have had to take so much time to feel brave enough to come out. Besides, being gay is not something my partner can control any more than I can control being straight.
Being an ally means standing up to friends. I had friends make all sorts of questionable comments when I told them about why my relationship ended. Some wondered how I could have not known. Some hinted that he could be my “gay best friend” now. While it’s important to recognize a lost cause in an argument, it’s equally important to correct friends and tell them why these jokes aren’t in the best taste. I wanted to be an ally to my partner, not participate in derogatory jokes against him.
The response we received was wildly different. One of the hardest things I experienced while going through this breakup was the huge discrepancy in the way my partner and I were received individually. My partner was being lauded for being brave and coming out. I was in the corner, my struggles forgotten, looked at with pity, and became the brunt of problematic jokes. It was definitely tough to deal with that.
Time to heal is necessary. After breaking up, I started to question if I was attractive. I started being nervous about dating again because I was worried that the same thing would happen again. I started doubting the sexuality of everyone around me. It’s important to know that these fears are valid. My relationship wasn’t what I thought it was and didn’t turn out the way I expected it to, so it was natural for me to feel more than a little betrayed. But understanding that the thoughts I was having were because of grief and pain and didn’t translate to reality helped to keep me grounded. All I really needed was time to heal and move on.
It’s not all about me. I don’t mean that a partner coming out shouldn’t affect me at all. Of course it should and it does. But at the end of the day, what I was going through and what my boyfriend was going through weren’t all that different. We were both nervous, frightened, and struggling to understand a new change in our lives. Sometimes I do wonder if it’s weird that I’ve been intimate with someone who is gay, but then I think, what do those thoughts say about my values? Sexuality is complicated and can evolve over time. Discovering one’s sexual orientation is something to be celebrated, and my partner’s journey of self-discovery is one I’m proud to have been a part of.