Tyler Clementi was in the process of coming out when he died. We can’t know how he felt. Tyler is the only person who could know how he felt and the only person who could know how far he had gone on the process toward coming out.
It is appropriate here to ask, what is it that drives a person to move from one stage of the process of coming out to another? For example, in the excerpts from Mickey’s episodes in Ceremonies, what drives Mickey to introduce the fact that he is gay into the heated discussion he is having with his landlord, and then to say, “I know what this is about—this is about bigotry against a gay man.” It is a kind of reckless anger and defiance when he feels himself surrounded on all sides by enemies.
But it needn’t be. Dana comes out to her parents in part because she loves them—but also because her brother, Kevin, now knows she is a lesbian and will eventually tell her parents. To protect herself, Dana tells her parents.
And what of Carole, the woman with whom Ceremonies opens? Why does this very intelligent, very accomplished graduate student at the Wharton School, turn from Esther and reject all that she offers? Why does Carole choose what is a kind of closet? Perhaps she doesn’t like feeling out of control—as emotions so often make one feel. But it is more complex than that. She likes being able to share her life with her father, and she likes playing the game he has chosen, so he will understand her achievement. She says, “Since I left Wharton and Philadelphia, winning is all I have ever cared about.” Her tragedy is that, after modeling her life on her father’s, he grew old and died, and toward the end, she says, to her own amazement, “I don’t think he cared how much money I made. He simply ceased to care.” She says, “I am not a fool. I know what I sold and why. I know what I bought. I know what a bed feels like when two people are in it.”
The point here is that we don’t know what “coming out” means for any particular person. Everybody is different. What is true about one person is rarely true of the next person. This ought not to be difficult to remember in a community so built on transgression and an awareness of difference as ours is.