During my college years, I spent a term or two as the co-director of the LGBT student organization (in the interest o gender parity, we had one male and one female co director), and when we weren't engaged in activism like getting the university to pass a non-discrimination policy regarding sexual orientation we would occasionally put our chairs in a circle during a meeting and share coming out stories. Usually it was when someone new joined the group, and it was something I enjoyed. There came a day when I realized that I'd heard everyone's coming out story at least twice, and that I just couldn't listen to anymore coming out stories.
After a week of seeing what staying in the closet can do to someone, it's been something of a relief to spend this week celebrating the act of coming out of the closet. I didn't get around to posting or re-posting my coming out story again this year. But there were so many others posted that it seems appropriate to start out this round-up sharing them, because they may have been missed in all the other diary posts this week. And they should be read.
Alert: Actually, before I start the round-up, I want to mention something else that's important. My friend Keith, who spearheaded the LIFEbeat campaign, has been following the story of Michael Sandy all week. Sandy, a black gay man, was attacked in a gay bashing incident last Sunday; hit by a car after being attacked and chased by at least two white males.
Three men have been arrested and charged with the attack. The men lured Sandy to the Howard Beach area and attempted to rob him, as part of an internet scheme targeting gay men. Sandy was hit by a car as he was trying to escape being robbed and beaten. After he was hit, one of his attackers dragged him back to the side of the road in order to rifle through his pockets.
Black LGBT organizers and activists will hold a rally on Monday to demand an end to hate violence in the city and to hold city leaders accountable. The rally is scheduled to take place at 5 p.m. on Monday at New York City Hall. The rally is being sponsored by People of Color In Crisis, the New York State Black Gay Network, Gay Men of African Descent, the New York City Anti-Violence Project and the National Black Justice Coalition.
If you can, come out. Be there.
- Rsevern [DK] started the ball rolling by asking for coming out stories and linked to her own. Queer Kossacks did not disappoint.
- Like I said, I didn't get around to posting my coming out story, but bulk of it is here and there's a little bit more here. While the story of knowing that I was different goes back to kindergarten, it wasn't until 12 or 13 that it became a coming out story. That was 1982. Suffice it to say the story of a skinny, effeminate, nonathletic, black gay boy coming of age in the south during the Reagan era is not always pretty. But I survived.
- Not only did I survive. I celebrated NCOD by dancing with my husband in our family room, after putting the kid to bed, to a song that made me think of him when I heard it and that had me smiling and tearing up at my desk earlier that day. I celebrated a life that I didn't think would be possible back when I was coming out. I guess we have another to add to "our songs."
- Azrefugee [DK], prompted by a co-worker's expounding on gay marriage, shared a coming out story that began at the age of 18 with meeting her partner, and ended 21 years later with the loss of their house and and land to her partner's family — a family that didn't care for her partner during her illness — because they lacked the rights and protections of marriage. The co-worker "got it." To quote from the diary, "Coming out enables people who don't get it to become people who understand us on a human level. It turns a subject they know nothing about into a subject they know about personally."
- Arizona, by the way, is facing vote on an anti-gay marriage amendment to the state constitution. The amendment faces strong opposition.
- Pamindurham [DK] posted diary on the recent news that 70% of non-gay Americans know someone who is LGBT. It's chock-full of other information too.
- SoCalLiberal [DK] shares a coming out story to underscore why an event like National Coming Out Day is important. Another quote: "It's important that we use this day to recognize the brave men and women who have been willing to risk themselves just to be who they honestly are. On Kos, it's important that heterosexual Kossacks reaffirm their support for gay rights and gay people and it's important that gay Kossacks reaffirm who we are."
- Dreggas [DK] posted another story of coming out in a small town, as bisexual.
- Terrypinder [DK], who posted a diary about turning 25 and coming out as bisexual (in high school), was being conceived around the time I was coming out. That means I've been out for something like 25 years.
- Another reason coming out is important? What happens when we do it together, in numbesr? Drudolph [DK] posts about a report that says the number of same-sex couples who identify themselves as such has increased by 30% in the last 5 years. The six of the eight states facing anti-gay marriage amendments and ballot initiatives — Arizona, Colorado, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia — had increases above the national 30% rate.
- Some of those couples are also parents. Check out This story about coming out as a forty year old, married, father of two at GuyDads.
- Zanseattle [DK] posted a diary about how his partner proposed (it involves a comic book) and includes a quote that probably sums up what a lot of same-sex couples would say about why they're moving forward with weddings, union ceremonies and/or raising families: "I'm tired of waiting for the world to catch up."
- Speaking of proposals, I dare you to watch this one and remain dry-eyed. I couldn't. And remember folks, this is how we're going to destroy civilization and the world as we know it. Stop this from happening and you save the world.
- Kissfan [DK] offers an interesting trip through one of the most popular gay-bashing passages of the Bible.
- Gerry Studds, the first openly gay person elected to congress and whose name has been invoked a lot in the last couple of weeks, died today after collapsing while walking his dog. Doctors determined he had a blood clot in his lung. CNN referred to "his husband" in its report.
- CNN isn't alone in trying to figure out the right language to use when it comes to gay couples. Junglered1 [DK] points out that after swearing in the new AIDS czar — a gay man — Condoleeza Rice went so far as to acknowledge his partner and "mother-in-law" in her remarks. And in front of the first lady, too.
- Condi's slip of the tongue may anger some conservatives who assume it means Condi's forgotten that gay marriage isn't legal in most states. Of course Mark Dybul's partner's mom isn't really his anything "in-law." But "Mark's partner's mother" is a bit of a mouthful, and "Mark's friend's mother" is just as much of a mouthful and less honest about their relationship. "Mark's husband's mother" suffers the same problem, since Dybul can't have a husband legally, and both the Bush administration and the Republican party are working to see to it that he never can. You can't blame Condi for being confused, but there's no good alternative is there? I'm sure conservatives would rather she didn't acknowledge Dybul's partner or mother-in-law, or that the Bush administration hadn't appointed a gay guy in the first place.
- And if you think I'm going to say about Condi what you think I'm going to say about Condi, you're crazy.
- If nothing else, Condi is among the 70% of Americans who at least know someone whose LGBT. And knowing someone gay makes some people more likely to support equality. In that sense, it's catching. See what the honesty, integrity and self-respect it takes to come out leads to?
- Good thing Dubya steered clear of Foley all this time. This equality stuff is contagious. Get too close and next thing you know, he'd be dancing at Mary Cheney's wedding.
- Because gay marriage isn't as scary as it used to be.
- Maybe that's because supporters of same-sex marriage are actually allowed to roam the streets and knock on doors to campaign in support of their cause. With the support of the ACLU, of course. Dontcha see? Some of those door-knockers are probably gay themselves. Maybe even gay couples. Now, if people in the good state of Virginia open their doors to those canvassers, even more people will know at least one person who's gay. And you know where that leads, right?
- I guess the folks at the ACLU don't have the good sense to know what everyone else does, or at least what the letter writers at AOL's Worth Repeating know: Gay people should stay indoors. And I quote, "if gays people can't control themselves in their relation, at least they should kept it silent and anonimous until we find the way to correct that antinatural sindrome.. displays of this culture is dangerously inmoral and invite youth to sin.. nothing against this culture that is not explicit stablished in the bible.. the action shoud be repent and stay indoors until things are corrected…". My favorite, though, is the one who claimed homosexuality was " a sickness that God never intended to occur" and "a sickness that God will never cure." Can get this guy on the phone with Exodus ministries?
- And it doesn't help that Rhode Island lesbians get married in Massachusetts without the world ending or so much as a hairline fissure in the foundations of western civilization.
- Next thing you know, if QueerCents is right, they'll be asking for the right to make medical decisions, inheritance rights, the right to share pensions, medical benefits, etc., and without meeting the requirement that their union be able to produce biological offspring from both parents. Just like we require of every heterosexual couple before issuing a marriage license. Right?
- And if they don't get it, maybe they'll start boycotting heterosexual weddings, and maybe even stop underwriting heterosexual marriage with wedding gifts, pensions that don't go their same-sex partners, social security a that same-sex partners can't inherit, taxes payed because same-sex partners can't file jointly if it helps them, etc., when everyone knows that stuff outweighs any economic benefits of same-sex marriage.
- If somebody doesn't come up with a rational basis for banning same-sex marriage, then there's a possibility that someone might come up with a rational argument for why same-sex marriage is good conservative policy. Like this: "It will respect individual rights while minimizing the oppressive intrusion of the state into the lives of a minority of its citizens."
- The Same QueerCents post reminds us that Codi once suggested that marriage is simply about finding "somebody that you'd want to live the rest of your life with." Can't blame her for being confused. This is a woman who once referred to president Bush as "my husband". Silly Condi. Getting hitched is for kids. Period.
- Because everyone knows gay parents "deny their children the fundamental necessity to have a mother and a father." So what happens when Abigail finds a parenting arrangement that offers an openly gay father and an openly lesbian mother? My guess is that the right wingers will get right back to us on that.
- Republican Rep. Chris Shay's must know someone gay, after all he's taken the bold step of declaring that sodomy is not torture. So, either he knows someone gay, or he knows something he's not telling. Right?
- I know I spent last weeks round up talking to closet gay Republicans, but they still don't seem to be out of trouble yet. So, maybe it's time for a National Coming Out Day for Gay Conservatives? Reports suggest there are enough of them to support it, at least the first year.
- And if it works, there won't be anyone left for the purge that your party's Christian right base is clamoring for.
- And, really, isn't coming out a better, healthier option than crawling into a bottle?
- Isn't it better than the "dreadful, pathetic days of no-win choices" that one former closeted gay Republican staffer describes, like not being able to socialize and not reporting a hate crime that leaves stitches in your scalp and threatens your life because "what closeted chief of staff to a leading anti-gay conservative congressman would ever report something like that…?" He also asks, "Is it really worth it?" Is it?
- Unless you want to known as closet Democrats. That's what Cliff Kincaid called you. Do you want to let him get away with that? I mean that's gotta be even worse than being called a closeted gay Republican. Right? Being called a Democrat's gotta be a bigger insult that being called gay.
- They might just have to settle for taking down Jim Kolbe for that camping trip with congressional pages 10 years ago. And can someone please explain to me how Kolbe's problems are the fault of "Gay Liberals’ own hatred"? Of whom? Not themselves, I guess, because there aren't many liberal gays working for a party pretty much owned by people who despise them.
- Former Washington Blade editor Chris Crain, now blogging as an expatriate, says Kolbe should also come under fire for his weak attempt at corrective action when he learned how Foley was carrying on with pages. Crain also makes a case for why someone should ask the question when it comes to sexual orientation, at least in cases like this.
- And if that's not enough, toss them Dennis Hastert. He's rumored to have some youthful indiscretions in his past, according to Last Lemming [DK]. State Rep Mark Cohen Dem PA [DK] say's it's Hastert's fault you're in this mess in the first place, for not having a "sit down" with Foley years ago. And just because he's a Dem doesn't mean he's wrong. After all it's progressive that actually want you to be able to come out of the closet along with the rest of us.
- Todd Johnstonhas more, by the way, on why Hastert's sexual orientation matters, including collusion between leaders on the far right, behind-the-scenes threats from "the real power brokers," and the possibility that Hastert's orientation could be "used to manipulate the balance of power in Congress." You mean closeted homosexual might be susceptible to political blackmail, or worse?
- Of course, Hastert may be a red herring. Foley too, if A Proud AZ Liberal is right that the whole mess is a diversionary tactic to make sure no one pays attention to what's really going on and what kinds of bills have quietly made their way to the president's desk.
- As an aside, it's worth nothing that if the response of conservative bloggers is any indication, Condi's gone from being their Madonna of black conservatism to just another affirmative action hire: "Since when is gay marriage legal throughout America? It isn't. But it tells us a lot about Rice. She's not qualified for most of the jobs she's gotten, but she's no dummy." But she's not qualified for her job, and the mother-in-law slip-up just proves it.
- After all, colleges are now considering affirmative action for gay students. Sounds kinda strange at first until you consider that LGBT youth are still often kicked out by their parents and cut off financially when they come out or their orientation is discovered. They can get kicked out of school too, whether high school or college. Organizations like the Point Foundation have been giving scholarships to gay students for a while now. Conservatives hate the idea. Maybe that's because fewer kids might wind up like Zach.
- They're already getting way too much encouragement as it is. The Philadelphia School Board not only sponsored a Gay History Month, but stood by its decision over the objections of parents. These may be the same parents who heckled a lesbian student to the point of tears for daring to speak at a school board meeting about Gay History Month. That same lesbian student was later heard to say, "At first, it hurt me. But then I stopped crying because I realized that these people don't know me and I don't know them. But I would hate to be their child, having to come out of the closet to them." She's got a point. If she were their kid, they might do a lot more than yell "boo." And all because of something as simple as a sentence on a calendar.
- And even second grade teachers are coming out of the closet. So, kids are learning younger and younger that gay people exist. Imagine!
- It won't be long before parents have to face their kids coming out in scenes like this one.
- Next they'll be learning that gay families exist too. Oh wait. That's already happening in Minnesota. And according to the article, the opposition is a group of black mothers. You can imagine I'll have more to say about that later.
- If we're not careful, they might actually get the answers to questions that retiring queerspawn activist Abigail Garner says they're asking the kids with gay parents.
- Now we have lesbian moms writing for respectable conservative papers like the Wall Street Journal, and publishing online memoirs about the decadent business of, um, raising kids. If this keeps up, we might all have to take lessons on how to respond when meeting lesbian moms.
- Is it any wonder that 13 is now the average age for kids to come out? (Man, I did it when I was 13, in the early 80s. I guess that makes me a gay prodigy.)
- And when these kids come out and start gay/straight student alliances in their schools, the ACLU helps them out.
- In Britain, they've even taken to the internet, using Facebook to bash a Christian college that encourages them to suppress their sexual orientation.
- Now, what kind of example does it set for kids if gays won't sit still for even a verbal bashing? It starts with a gay/straight student alliance, and ends with uppity queers chasing off homophobic gay-baiters.
- After all, look what happened at Yale where students weren't frightened away from participating in National Coming Out Day by an anti-gay email and postering campaign.
- You know what the end of this is? If more gay people come out, then more people know someone who's gay. If more people know someone who's gay, then more people will support equality for their gay friends, neighbors, family, coworkers, etc. If more people support equality, then there's a chance more gay people might end up getting married and raising families. And in that kind of atmosphere, maybe fewer will end up like Michael Sandy or Matthew Sheppard, who was gay-bashed eight years ago this week, and whose Mom is now launching a Get Out the Vote campaign at the foundation named for her son.
- Given all of the above, if all these people start voting, what kind of world do we end up with? A world without someone to hate, if we have the courage for it? A world where, as plf515 [DK] puts it, "There is no them. We are all us"? If we're lucky…
What kind indeed. Maybe a world with more Michael Sandys and Matthew Sheppards living happy, healthy lives with their families and in their communities. And loving. Because that's really what it's all about anyway.
I don't know if Michael or Matthew would have wanted a life like the one I ended up with; complete with a wonderful partner and a beautiful son, two relationships that revealed to me a capacity to love that I didn't know I had before. When I came out, I didn't know if this was the life that I wanted. And it didn't matter anyway because I didn't think it was possible then. I remember once when I was in high school, I upset my mom with an offhand remark that I'd probably never marry or have kids. And when I was in college, my mom visited my apartment and upon meeting my new kitten said "I suppose that's the closest thing I'm going to get to a grandchild out of you."
Time proved both of us wrong. But it had help. It had help from the folks who fought back at Stonewall, and it had help from everyone who's ever come out and taken a stand for their own equality. It's had help from everyone who's ever come out and fought for every gain that LGBT people have won in the last few decades. The life I have today didn't just become possible. It was made possible by countless people who believed it should be possible. And in most cases, the first step was coming out.
So now what do I do? The best I can offer is to do what I can to "make it possible" for those who'll come after me to be out and to be able to choose the lives they want from the among the full range of possibilities anyone else has.
There's a lullaby that I heard the Flirtations sing a long time ago, called "Everything Possible". I used to sing it to Parker when he was a baby, and I think it sums up what I'm trying to say. The chorus goes like this.
You can be anybody you want to be
You can love whomever you will
You can travel any country where your heart leads
And know I will love you still
You can live by yourself, you can gather friends around
You can choose one special one
And the only measure of your words and your deeds
Will be the love you leave behind when you're done
There are girls who grow up strong and bold
There are boys quiet and kind
Some race on ahead, some follow behind
Some go in their own way and time
Some women love women, some men love men
Some raise children, some never do
You can dream all the day never reaching the end
Of everything possible for you
I don't think I can add anything more to that.