Having moved to D.C., in part to be closer to dates and friends, one of the biggest shocks was not the ubiquity of the gay scene, but those hiding from it. Even among the most affluent and upwardly mobile people on the planet, people either still feel insecure about being out, or have no desire to.
Certainly, people are not obligated to come out, but it certainly is shocking to meet and date people making six figures in a proverbial LGBT mecca. Even with gay marriage and labor protections, people still have a lot to lose at work. Slight affronts, like being passed over for a project or not fitting in at work do have adverse impacts, but having wide portions of the LGBT community stay closeted indefinitely while things get better for us is the most surreal non-solution to exist. Labor protections and human resources departments are finally on our side, and it makes the least sense of all that now is the time that people find it rational to hunker down.
Some of my exasperation is centric in the fact that at 25 I end up dating 22 year olds on occasion, who may not have fully shared who they are with friends or family. But I still hear secondhand stories of thirty-somethings who marry out of social pressure, regardless of the fact that the man in the relationship is gay. While the gay guy and his newfound wife can do whatever they want, I think we should ask ourselves where we are.
I have been through the experience of knowing other gay men who feel like they cannot come out due to disownment from their family. That hurts. But the surrealism of seeing rich people who by definition have relatively little to lose as social norms make us so integrated will never cease to shock me. There is less of this than there was even just a decade ago, but it still exists even in a place as gay as downtown Washington.
Seeing these things, two thoughts really come to mind. Either society is still pretty homophobic, or people may want to be private with their sex lives. The first I put a fair amount of weight in, and the second I think is at least partially true. Northern European countries are remarkably muted when it comes to “coming out” getting a lot of fanfare, and it is possible that there are people who just want to share that part of themselves in private. This is a valid choice, but it seems strange that as people become more accepting that people would feel the need to buckle down and hide. It is possible to want this without being afraid or living around homophobia, but it is remarkably absurd.
I do not know how much permissive society would have to be to get almost every person to be “out”, but I do know that I do not want my voice to be muted. Our lives are so remarkably short that it makes no sense to hide a significant other, nor is it rational to be single till I am thirty or forty just to hide the fact that my partner is a man. Being out might be a small part of that change, but I would not trade it for the veneer of being straight.