In Ceremonies, Mickey gives two television interviews. In the first his face is lit so he can’t be recognized, and when he sees the broadcast of the interview, Mickey sees what he has done:
The reporter, on screen, is a warm and vibrant person with attractive middle-class American middle-aged steadiness. He looks directly into the camera and, with smiles and winks and floating eyebrows, establishes trust with the audience. The person he is interviewing—me—is shown back-lighted, his face entirely in shadow. There is nothing identifiable about his silhouette: the cut of his hair, the set of the jaw, the way he moves his lips when he talks, and most particularly, the absence of moist eyes with lashes. There is no feature that would make it possible for someone to respond emotionally to him, to grasp him. His voice seems hostile, resentful, and aggressive. I sound even shrill at moments. This is not me. I feel exposed. I have allowed myself to be used. I feel shamed, and I hate it. I look shamed.”
When Mickey sees himself on TV, his face in shadow, he says, This is not me, and during the next several days, he looks for a better fit between the kind of person he is and the way he is presenting himself.
He grows bold. He comes out to his boss because he needs to go to Bernie’s funeral, and he doesn’t much care whether his boss likes it, and to the cops who come to his house because someone has painted DIE FAGGOT in red paint on his front door, to his landlord who threatens him with eviction because of the door. He says to his landlord, “I’ll get a lawyer and fight you every step of the way. I have money, I want you to know. I’ll spread this all over the newspapers too. You’ll come out of this looking like a bigot, Mr. Fellowes, because I know what this is about—this is about bigotry against a gay man, Mr. Fellowes. And I am going to fight you every fucking inch of the way and do it as publicly as I can, and I want you to make no mistake about me, Mr. Fellowes. I’m not afraid of you or anything you can do to me—” Mickey is searching for a way to be, about which he can say, this is me. But it is the two television interviews that indicate how much he has changed.
On Friday, after the funeral at the cemetery, the TV reporter and the cameraman ask permission to interview Mickey. In a beautiful setting, with Bernie buried only minutes before, Mickey allows the cameraman to take him in completely as he talks “answering the reporter’s long questions on Bernie’s death and its effect on the gay community in Cardiff, on [Mickey] and [his] homosexuality, on grief and loss, staring into the large black round glass eye.”
Whether this suits the bigots around town—or whether it suits the new gay community in Cardiff—what Mickey is doing is suiting himself, finding the me in all this chaos. At first, he didn’t know that was what he was looking for, and at first he didn’t know how to recognize it when he found it, but once he found it, he held on to it like a rock—the me in the swift-running, violent, turbulent stream of his life.
People call what Mickey does in Ceremonies—these are just a few brief scenes from his rich life—“coming out.” It is important to notice that finding the me in the chaos around him is an intensely private pursuit. He is the only person who is going to know when he’s found it, and the effects of finding it are going to be intensely personal. It’s interesting that a process that leads those who go through it deeper and deeper into an intimate knowledge of themselves seems to be describing something very public and is called coming out.