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Out. Proud. Rotarian.

10/09/2010

Last week I introduced my friend Van as a new member of the Downtown Nashville Rotary Club. For me, and for Van, that was something of a big deal. For Rotary, not so much. And that’s a good thing.

A little background …

Those who’ve been reading along with this blog may remember that I’m a Rotarian. For those who don’t know Rotary, it’s sort of the quintessential old fart, white guy service club thing. When a client-friend suggested I join six years ago, I did so a bit skeptically, with stereotypes in mind. As it turned out the stereotypes were pretty much all wrong. The Downtown Nashville Club, with its more than 400 members was, and is, surprisingly diverse. Over 25% women, including our current president, and 15% non-white. And not all that old either. There are plenty of old goats, but there are also lots of members in their 30s.

But there’s one area where we’re not so diverse – at least on the surface. As far as I can tell, there are only 4 gay members who are out. I nominated two of them, Van and another friend, Brian, for membership and introduced them to the club.

And the introduction is where it gets interesting.

Our club’s brief lunch-meeting introductions tend to include educational, professional and community service credentials and a little about the new member’s family life – spouse, children, hobbies, occasionally dogs and horses – that sort of thing. I joined long before I came out, and I didn’t exactly ask to have my coming out announced in the monthly newsletter, so I’m sort of a stealth gay. At the time I introduced Brian, he didn’t have a partner, so there was nothing to report on that score.

But Van has a partner, Dave, also a long-time friend of mine. I was not about to leave Dave out of the mix, so there was no way not to announce Van’s gayness.

Toward the end of my little speech, I included the fact that Van lived with his partner of 10 years, Dave. And the good news is this: it made not a ripple. There was the usual round of applause from the 200 or so Rotarians gathered for the weekly Monday lunch-meeting. Van stood up and received his Rotary lapel pin (Ick! I never wear mine!), a handshake, and a few words of welcome from this year’s president.

Done. No drama. No big deal. No need for the butterflies that had been batting around in my stomach all morning.

And this says two things to me.

One is that things change. Even if it seems to be at a crawl, we can move forward as a society.

The other is that sometimes the most important, world-changing events come to us in the guise of something not happening. And as such, they can slip right past us.

I’m glad I noticed this one.

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