“If you’re not out, you’re hurting us.”

by Johnny Murdoc

The word “out,” when applied to a sexual minority, has a lot of implications and, honestly, a lot of layers. One of the most important things that I read years ago was that coming out isn’t just one thing that you do, it’s a series of steps that you will have to take for the rest of your life. No one meets me and assumes that I’m gay; it’s just not the culture that we live in. Whether or not I take the time to say “Oh, and I’m gay” depends a lot on the situation, and is probably realized through subtle and not-so-subtle mentions of my partner. I’m really, really fond of the guy and I’m prone to talking about him a lot. (See? That’s the “not-so-subtle” variety.)

In last week’s Riverfront Times story about Kendra, I was quoted as saying “If you’re not out, you’re hurting us.” I recognize that the quote is short and to the point and could be easily misconstrued, so I’d like to elaborate on it a little bit. At the meeting referred to in the article, I was inspired by (and read a quote from) Stephen Elliott’s introduction to his book of kinky stories, My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up:

Writer Stephen Elliot

“It is in everyone’s best interest for more people to be open about their sexual desires. More pride flags need to be displayed on porches and windows and tattoos. As kinky people we need to talk to our nonkinky friends about our desires. We can’t wait for the approval of others; we must force them to accept us. We will never have political power until we let the politicians know that we are not ashamed.”

Anyone familiar with the gay rights movement knows that “coming out” is important for the movement to progress. There are few steps that gays and lesbians can take to further queer acceptance that are more effective than coming out: to their friends, to their families, and to their co-workers. Time and time again we’ve been shown that straight people—both the homophobic and the apathetic—are more likely to reconsider their positions on homosexuality if someone they know is gay. In just four decades, the modern gay rights movement has created a foundation on the shoulders of those who were brave enough and strong enough to come out of the closet.

I believe that the same process can help the kinksters, the poly, and other sexual minorities. I hate to sound cliche, but fear is driven by ignorance. It’s only when people can see the big picture—just how many of their neighbors are hiding pony-tailed butt plugs under the bed—that the political and social landscape in this country will change.

However, I recognize that not everyone is in the position to be out. Unfortunately, we still live in a society where there are legal ramifications for sexual freedom: gays and lesbians can lose their jobs for coming out, polyamorous people can lose custody of their children, and kinky behavior can be used as evidence in divorce proceedings. This is where I think that the various levels of being out come in. I write under a pseudonym specifically because I fear that future employers won’t take kindly to my erotica/porn writing, but I’m out to all of my close friends and family about my writing, the fact that I’m gay, and my involvement in SEX+STL. It’s possible to be out in stages, in contexts that change with comfort levels.

Writer Johnny Murdoc

Writer Johnny Murdoc

I think that being out is important and vital to the health of the sexual zeitgeist, but I also believe that it’s a personal choice that no one should make for anyone else. Here at SEX+STL we want to create a safe environment for people to talk about sexuality with the level of personal exposure that they are comfortable with. We have the utmost respect for peoples’ privacy and would never do anything to expose personal information in a public setting. While we encourage people to be as open as possible, we would never drag anyone out the closet, regardless of what’s to be found in that closet.

(photo of Stephen Elliott: Image: Stephen Elliott, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike (2.0) image from tjfaust’s photostream)


  1. Thousands of people knew my true identity before I Came Out, but my privacy was respected and I was able to Come Out on my own terms. I am very grateful to my friends (and not-so-friends!) for that respect.

  2. Bendy,

    I’m interested in understanding your position a little more clearly. I certainly can’t speak for Stephen Elliot, but I’d love to work this out with you.

    Do you believe that there’s something wrong in asking for, or even demanding, acceptance? History has shown that, without action from minorities, the majority is unlikely to come around on its own. There is so much shame in this culture about what we like to do behind closed doors, and that shame won’t go away until more people recognize that others are doing the same things. I don’t believe that any consensual sexual act between adults should be condoned or condemned or that any sexual minority should be subject to persecution because of their actions.

    I’m genuinely interested in hearing where you find fault with that concept, or Elliott’s call to action.

  3. I believe that being out is what it will take to get people to open their eyes.
    I spent time laying in the swinger type circles and rarely cared except about possible problems that could arise from people finding out.
    Eventually though I became involved a bit more seriously with somebody and now I guess would have to self label mostly as poly.
    The thing is that once I became so involved I realised how hard it is to hide something you are proud of. Or in my case a person I was proud of.
    I am mostly out now as poly and swinger. So is my wife. Our different partners are not. They can’t be because of their jobs, family, etc…
    It sucks.
    It sucks because people just don’t understand such situations.

  4. @Inferno – I really love what you say about it being hard to hide something you’re proud of. I’ve had similar experiences around being poly and out, too, but never could articulate that as well as you have now. Thanks!

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