David Cornelius – Coming Out

“I came out in the Navy.”

I came out in the Navy—very easy to come out in the Navy; [there were other gay men in the Navy who supported you and protected you]. When I say I came out—only to particular people—but I’ve never really done much work at hiding details. My friends call me a blabbermouth, but I’m just . . . open. In other words, privacy is not an important thing. I was raised in a big family, spent four years in the Navy. The notion of privacy is just a very minor issue to me. I just think people just need to reveal everything, and so that’s just what I do. I just blab everything, which is an important thing to know. You don’t tell me things if you don’t want them known. [Laughs.] All my close friends know that. “David just blabs,” they just tell you.

When I went back to graduate school [after being in the Navy], I just decided, “Well, [sexuality] is not something you keep hidden.” All the way through Florida State, people knew that I was out, that I was gay. But it’s a lot easier in a university setting, you know, even in the South. My God! You’re in a university setting. It’s a different world.

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It’s so funny. I never told my parents that I was gay. I showed up with Rick, and he would always stay with me, and sleep with me. It was the typical Southern Baptist, Southern family. You just do these things. We just don’t talk about it.

A lot of people feel that that was very important to have the session with your parents, to confront them on it, and say “I’m gay, you’ve got to accept it.” I never did. It always just floored Rick because, see, that’s where he was different. Once he decided, he had just immediately called up his sister, and people in his family, and said “I’m gay.” I never did that.

Of course, everyone in my family knows that I’m gay. I send out all these Christmas letters saying when we’re going to get married, and so forth to everyone in my family—even [to] the ones who are so very strong evangelicals that I’m sure they shudder every time they see my Christmas letter. But I never had that [explicit conversation].

My parents were always very accepting. I mean, amazingly accepting, of everything. I never felt the need that I had to do that. It would just be awkward for them. They’d say, “Oh, okay.” I just didn’t do it. Of course, I only went home once a year so . . .   [laughs] it wasn’t like I always had to deal with it a lot.

[I know of another member family member who is gay]. It’s just that he doesn’t act on it. He’s always lived alone and just prefers to stay that way. He understands and is accepting, so I can discuss issues with him. But I don’t discuss it with my sisters or my other brothers. They just say, “Oh well. That’s David. He’s with Rick and Rick’s a nice guy.” I know they’ve probably never used the word “gay” ever—[laughs] at least not around me. They might when I’m not there. That is just the way the family is.

Every now and then I get this yearning, “Oh, maybe I should live closer to the family,” and then I’ll read like some of their Facebook accounts. I said, “Oh, gosh, no! I know there was a reason I left.” Yeah. “Oh, no way. I’m not going back there.” I think I recognized earlier that I was gay, and I wanted to be away where I could be comfortable.

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Sources: Interviews with Laura S. Hodgman on 15 November 2012 and 6 May 2014; transcribed by J. Zander; edited by Laura S. Hodgman.