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Come out, come out, wherever you are …

07/11/2011

This blog has never been about trying to tell people what to do. And that has certainly applied to the question of coming out.

It took me more than 50 years to come out to myself, not to mention the additional year it took me to come out to everyone else. So I felt I was in no position to yell at anyone – with the exception of closeted right-wing politicians and so-called Christians – about when and how they should come out.

My line was: Come out at your own pace. I’m not pushing. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to this, or to anything else.

Yet, while that last sentence remains true, I’ve been rethinking things lately. I want to push a little. I’m not breaking any new conceptual ground here – this has all been said before by others – but recent political developments have sort of forced the issue to the front of my mind and into this blog.

It’s crazy out there.

On one hand, in recent weeks we have New York legalizing same-sex marriage and Rhode Island approving same-sex civil unions. Both are giant steps forward – one more giant than the other, but I’m not complaining.

On the other, we have national presidential candidates like Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain among others – all Republicans, by the way – who have made anti-gay bigotry a cornerstone of their political message. And on the state level, here in Tennessee as well as other states, we’ve seen an all-out legislative assault on gay people.

It’s telling to me, and very important for the world to know, that intense lobbying by several big-rich, heavy-hitter Republican political donors was a critical factor in getting the Republican-dominated New York state senate to pass the gay marriage bill. A common thread among these influencers (as well as some of the legislators who changed their votes) was the fact of having a close friend or family member who is gay. One of them, Paul Singer, has a gay son.

The point is this: When someone has a person-to-person connection with one of us, he or she is usually a lot less willing to demonize and work against us. Some will actually work for us. Obviously this doesn’t apply to Newt Gingrich, who has a gay half-sister, but generally, when people find out how ordinary and decent most of us are, the harsh rhetoric used by the right is shown up for what it is – bigotry.

When I look at what’s going on in the state where I live and in similar places, I have to wonder – have any of these people who campaign against us ever even met a gay person? We all know they’ve met a gay person, of course – you can’t grow to adulthood anywhere in the world without encountering gay people – but have they met a gay person who has had the courage to be out?

If every gay person in the state of Tennessee stood up and declared the fact – out loud – we’d see some of these jerks backing off of their harsh rhetoric and rethinking their positions. They’d realize they’d been demonizing their friends, neighbors and relatives.

In June of last year, I blogged about coming “all the way out”. I’d been taken aback by a couple of men I’d recently met who were living a sort of semi-double life. They presented themselves as a gay couple in most contexts, but one of them was not out to his mother. The situation necessitated all sorts of idiotic chicanery in an effort to keep the mother in the dark. I was critical of their approach mainly because of quality of life questions. That kind of double living takes a toll on those who live it.

But now I’m saying this: Doesn’t it really take a toll on all of us?

The more of us who are out and proud, the less possible it will be to make an argument that we are not sane, civil, healthy, happy and productive. That we are not normal. That we are not equal.

I believe the sociopolitical tide is rolling in our favor. But the battle is not won. And, there are people out there, some of whom hold elective office, who would be only too happy to see us made to wear pink triangles and herded into camps.

That’s why I put an HRC sticker on my car.

And that’s why I say to anyone who’s afraid or wavering: Come out! We need you!

It can be a hard thing to do. God knows it was hard for me. But, when I was teetering on the edge, knowing the truth, but so very afraid to face it, my therapist gave me some wise words: Sometimes you just have to let go of the trapeze and fall into the net.”

I did. And here I am. The trick, of course, is believing there’s a net. I’m here to tell you, there is one, and it will catch you – if  you let it.

So, if you’re just out, come on and join the party. Make some noise. If you’re wavering, make the leap. There are millions of us out here – ready to welcome you out into the light, eager to ease your transition, and asking you to join the chorus.

We need every voice we can get – gay, straight, bi, trans, whatever. That includes yours.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Kristy permalink
    07/11/2011 8:02 AM

    You’ve got my vote! 😉

    • 07/11/2011 1:49 PM

      Thank you, dear. And, I’ll remember this in the – highly unlikely – event I run for something.

  2. dolphin permalink
    07/12/2011 2:04 PM

    Whenever I talk to anyone questioning whether they should come out, I tell them one thing for sure. I have NEVER met ANYONE who came out and then said they’d wished they hadn’t. I’ve known people who’ve been through tough coming out processes (losing family ties, etc.) but none of them has ever said “Gee, I wish I’d stayed in the closet.”

    Alot of closeted guys come to me for advice for some reason. I tell them to consider a few things:

    1) Are you sure? Some passing attraction to A member of the same-sex doesn’t necessarily make you gay. We’re pretty much all bisexual to one degree or another. We live in a society of labels. Coming out will apply one to you and it’s hard to remove. 99% of the time if somebody is considering coming out at all, they are probably sure, but there’s always the occasional person who is rushing to apply a label to themselves over a passing attraction to one person.

    2) Are you independent from anyone who might react badly. The unemployed college student with no job, might want to stay in til they are self-suficient if they suspect their parents might have a strong negative reaction.

    3) Do you have a network of good friends or family who either already know, or who you strongly suspect will have a positive reaction. You need to have a support network in place. I don’t know if any of us could handle it if we suddenly lost the support of nearly everybody we’re close to. I think it’d be a rare event for everyone you know to have a negative reaction, but you do want to feel good that you “know” there will be somebody you care about who will support you.

    If the answer to all three of those questions is yes, then go for it!

    • 07/12/2011 3:19 PM

      Well said. I couldn’t agree more with your entire comment, but especially with that first sentence. I, too, have never met anyone who was sorry about coming out.

      An interesting subject for me – related, but not quite the same – is the question of coming “all the way” out. The two guys I blogged about yesterday and last June, who were hiding their relationship from one of their mothers, are a depressingly familiar type. I continue to be amazed by the number of men I meet – grown men, on their own and well past their student days – who live like this. Out in Nashville – as in hanging at Tribe, going to Pride and GLBT chamber meetings – but not out back home in Chicago, or Paducah or wherever.

      I don’t pontificate at people about this unless asked, because it gets into areas that are totally not my business. I know they have their reasons. But still, it seems to me like a very hard, ultimately rather sad, way to live. When I came out, I sort of blew the doors off. I told everyone I could think of, including elderly family members from the same generation as my deceased parents, a bunch of other people who probably didn’t want to hear it, and a bunch of others who probably didn’t much care.

      And, as I’ve said repeatedly in this blog, I’m SO glad I did!

  3. 07/23/2011 9:33 PM

    My first lover was Harrison Cotham , to whom I am eternally grateful for living her life as if being gay was, as it is, a perfectly normal way to be. Her thought was that if everybody who was queer would turn purple or green for just one day, then all the hoopla of prejudice would be over. Being her partner gave me a great boost in being purple or green every day of my life since I was 28. That was about 32 years ago. I have never, ever regretted being out. It’s actually much more fun that way even if you meet some rejection from parents or employees, both of which I experienced.

    People want most of all to feel comfortable. if we gay-bi-lesbian-trans folks get comfortable with ourselves, that leaves a clear path for other people to be comfortable with us.

    And after I came out as the orientation presented itself naturally in social situations–that is not dissembling or telling a lie–I stopped hearing anti-gay remarks–stopped cold. They went away from my life to some other truly queer place where they live in darkness and disgrace.

    Thanks, David, for bringing this important issue to the forefront. Everyone who hasn’t, please come out when you can, and by all means make that soon. You will be glad, glad, glad. If folks can’t still love you, hire you, hang out with you, I promise there are other quite splendid folks who will do all those things. Life goes on and you can breathe better. Who doesn’t want that? As the brilliant writer James Baldwin said about his open sexuality, “You didn’t tell me. I told you.”

    F. Lynne Bachleda

    • 07/23/2011 9:40 PM

      Tell it, sistah!

  4. Lee permalink
    07/26/2011 7:12 AM

    Well said!

    • 07/26/2011 9:03 AM

      Thanks.

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