Michael Crawford

Another Reason to Come Out

Filed By Michael Crawford | October 20, 2008 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: coming out of the closet, gay visibility, straight allies

Here is another reason that it is so crucial that we as LGBT people live our lives openly and honestly:

I had almost the exact same experience as Jay. It was very easy to use the word "fag" around my friends--until I started working with gay people. Part of it was youth. (I was just coming into my college years) But a larger part was living in Washington D.C., hanging out in Dupont Circle (it used to be different), working in Adams Morgan, and being forced to see gay cats as actual human beings. "Gay" was no longer an abstract thing--it was, like, my editor who saved my sorry-ass copy--repeatedly.

That's blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates writing in response to an email from one of his reader about his experiences seeing LGBT people as people and not as some right-wing generated stereotype out to recruit kids, destroy the sanctity of marriage and bring down Western civilzation before heading off to the Banana Republic sample sale.

If we do not challenge the lies about our lives put out by those how wish us harm, we close ourselves off to the possibility of new and unexpected friendships that could enrich our lives.

When I say that I am not living in a Polly Anna-ish world where everything is sweetness and rainbow-wearing allies. I know that no matter how open and honest that we may be, there will still be people who wish to hurt us and force us back into hiding. But, we cannot allow them to rule our lives.

I also know that coming out is an individual process and that no matter how much the rest of us support you, you are the one who has to make the decision about when and how to come out and to whom. My point is that to varying degrees we have the choice about how we live our lives and that to live your life based on someone else's prejudices hurts you.

Ta-Nehisi's post shows that when we give people the opportunity to get to know us that we can person-by-person shatter the lies that continue to be told about who we are.

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There's always a challenge. I came out to a group of young adults with Severe Mental Illness (i.e., Schizophrenia) after being asked to describe why I was going for my masters. I went last. Each person discussed their personal reasons; so, I discussed mine.

There was also a person in the room with gender bending concerns and I felt it important for that person to know he or she was not alone. I had also observed several gay themed books around that apparently had gone unnoticed by the staff.

The only person who had a problem with it was the facilitator; an American lady with dreads, skin the color of purest ebony, wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt and African belt was telling me I was "flaunting myself" because I described my community organizing experience and how it led me to where I was. It made me very sad, knowing that I was expected to hide, yet she could reveal her politics and beliefs all over her body. Those who appear open minded aren't always so. What she didn't apparently know is that her co-facilitator is a Lesbian...

BehindTheCurtain | October 20, 2008 5:28 PM

I'm sure there's some peace and relaxation in the honesty of being 'out'. One's sexuality and partnership preferences aren't anyone's real business. You're looking for positively viewed regular people as example role models of the rainbow spectra.

Ultimately, we want to feel good about our relationships, no matter which combination we've entered into. It doesn't matter if it's of one 'persuasion' or another.

'Out' and flaunting it is perhaps just as bad as being str8 and flaunting it. I want to applaud people for their successful relationship, not because it's a guy/guy, girl/girl, whatever/whatever relationship.

Worse, you'll want applause for your monogamy. I don't believe in it. I believe in polyamory, and to an extent, consent-based promiscuity. But that's my cup of tea, and not other's. I respect their selection; I want that for myself. I'm not sure that open-out has the merits you think.

Honesty-- yes. But I'm not a billboard for something-rainbow. I have other things to do than be the local marketing agent for non-str8, non-monogamous relationships. I'm busy. And I'm not an evangelist; merely a practitioner. You have the pulpit. I'll be the flock. No conversions today. Pass the basket. What's the hymn again?

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | October 20, 2008 9:14 PM

Being open and honest is really just living your life with dignity and self-respect.

Nowhere in my post did I suggest that people should "flaunt" their sexual orientation, though I don't have a problem with people who do.

The problem is that those in opposite-sex relationships are free to publicly display affection, show off their baby and wedding pics, address each other as "honey," "poo bear" and other terms of endearment with no questions asked and not a care in the world. Those of us who have same-sex relationships are expect to not hold hands in public, talk about our partners, express a desire for legal recognition of our relationships and basically be silent for fear of offending the genteel sensibilities of the hetro majority.

That's just bull.

behindTheCurtain | October 21, 2008 6:45 PM

But you can hold hands in public. Squeeze your partner(s). The act has no significance to anyone else but you and them.

Example A: you're out and you walk down the street, holding the hand of your buddy.

Example B: you're not out and you walk down the street, holding the hands of your buddy.

The difference: out. The general public usually doesn't know or care. Will someone have a problem if I put a liplock on my partner out in a public venue? Should they have a problem, out or not out, it is their problem and not my problem.

You own your own emotions, and letting others (with the side note of the sense that you're out-- or not) means you're dependent on the emotions of others. Co-dependency is another name for this.

Only a narcissist thinks that others aren't affected by what they do. I'm not suggesting becoming one. Instead, letting one's sexuality or orientation get in the way of expressing affection for another is living in fear. That's not being in the closet; that's living with imposed guilt. You is, or you ain't. Live accordingly.

For myself, as mentioned, I'm not a banner boy for rainbow whatever. I understand and appreciate the struggle to get acceptance for non-str8, even non-monogamous relationships. But I can't let my life be dictated by whether some random stranger walking down the street knows if I'm queer or not. I am; that's my business. Those that need to know, know. For others, there are no rainbow stickers on my car, no HR pins on my suits, no cute thong lines on my butt, and no other indicators that I might be any particular persuasion, even politically. Inside, I know what and who I am, as do my friends. So be it. Being out implies defense, or even defense by affrontive character. I'm not that. I'm not trying to persuade anybody to do anything.

I don't shop at Banana Republic. No wonder the revolution has been delayed.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | October 21, 2008 8:18 AM

Well, Bil, it is your fault that we have not achieved full equality.