The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Livin’ La Vida Out Loud

This was my first experience of Ricky Martin. I didn’t know his name. I’d never seen him before. But by the time he was done, I — like a lot of people — wanted to know “Who is that guy?!”

“Do you really want it?” he sang. And by the time he was done…I did. I really did.

Yeah, I admit it. I had a “thing” for Ricky Martin from day one. Maybe it was kinda like the “thing” I had for Lance Bass before he came out. I bought Ricky’s singles on cd, stopped to watch his videos when they came on, and lingered over pictures of him when I found them in magazine and online. And, yes, like I Lorenzo and a lot of other gay men, I “knew” Ricky was gay, or at least knew the “open secret” of his orientation. Still, it remained unconfirmed until this week, when he came out.

Singer Ricky Martin has ended years of speculation about his sexuality by declaring himself “a fortunate homosexual man”.

Martin, who has previously dodged questions about his sexual orientation, finally came out on his website, saying the birth of his two sons and writing his memoirs had led to his decision.

Writing in both English and Spanish, the Puerto Rico-born singer, who has sold more than 60 million albums worldwide, said: “To keep living as I did up until today would be to indirectly diminish the glow that my kids where (sic) born with.”

I know I’m way late with this post, but with the inevitable negative and/or dismissive responses, I wanted to congratulate and support Martin the way I would anyone who choses to come out. That goes double for the fact that he came out in his own time and in his own way, which I think is usually best. In fact, it’s particularly refreshing in a time when so many anti-gay politicians like Roy Ashburn, Jim West, Joey DiFatta, Ed Shrock, Robert Allen and Glenn Murphy — not to mention Ted Haggard and others like him — fall out of the closet or are dragged out by circumstances.

Plus, as a parent, I understand how his kids would make it even more important for him to come out. Granted, some gay parents live in places and circumstances where coming out publicly is outweighed by the risks — to life and livelihood, in some cases. But even in those cases, parents will at least want to come out to their kids.

Kids pick up so much from parents, and so often what we transmit without words speaks louder than anything we can ever say. Put plainly, if kids see a parent who is secretive and ashamed of his sexual orientation, they will absorb that and apply the same to themselves and their family.

It’s much better, and much healthier to do it the way Martin did it. And not just for him. There’s anecdotal evidence that gay-friendly societies are happier and healthier.

Still, while it may have been a wrenching decision for Martin personally, there was something refreshing about eye rolling replacing homophobic invective. We should want his coming out to not be a big deal in whichever country we might live in. New research shows that tolerance of homosexuality is likely to mean we live in a democratic, developed, wealthy country. It should also mean we live in a well-educated country. And it may well mean we live in a relatively happy country.

New data from the World Values Survey, for example, has found a strong correlation between economic growth and more tolerant atti-tudes to homosexuality. Will Wilkinson, a research fellow at the Cato Institute who has been analyzing the numbers, says the reason for it hinges on what we need to survive: “According to University of Michigan political scientist Ronald Inglehart, the head of the World Values Survey, under conditions of relative scarcity and insecurity, individuals tend to develop values oriented toward survival,” he said. “In such conditions, the family is like a little mutual insurance society, and adherence to traditional family values is high. Respect for authority and conformity is also high. As economic prosperity advances, individuals naturally begin to worry less about how to simply get by and to worry more about making life meaningful. Wealth tends to produce a syndrome of ‘self-expressive’ or ‘emancipative’ values that includes a stronger sense of individuality and greater tolerance for diversity.”

So some of this is simply due to economic growth. But, Wilkinson argues, it is also due to how the economy has grown. “As we’ve transitioned from an industrial to a service/information economy, education and the ability to make independent decisions has become more valuable and therefore more widespread,” he says. “The need of the changing economy for increasingly educated, independent thinkers has helped create less conformist and more open, tolerant citizens.”

One of those independent thinkers, Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, takes this research one step further, arguing that more enlightened attitudes can actually make people happy. He believes that it is not just the wealth of well-developed countries that affects happiness, but values as well. In a recent paper written with Charlotta Mellander (Jönköping International Business School) and Peter J. Rentfrow (University of Cambridge), Florida analyzed a global survey of life satisfaction conducted by Gallup and found that “all else being equal, national levels of life satisfaction are closely tied to post-industrial values of tolerance and acceptance of minorities.” The most intolerant societies are, generally, those with the highest levels of suffering.

Certainly, people like Ted Haggard, Larry Craig, and Mark Foley are examples of just how much suffering is demanded in a more intolerant society.

Here’s the thing. When you prefer or even require your homosexuals to be closeted and/or psychologically and spiritually tormented, you do not get to bitch when something like this happens, because you made it inevitable.

See, when you start moaning about why this was exposed now, as opposed to questioning why there was anything to expose in the first place, you’re digging down levels deeper than your usual baseline neurosis, which is the equivalent of if ignoring the fact that the elephant you’ve been pretending isn’t in the room has just crapped in the middle of it. And he’s crapped just what you’ve been shoveling all along. What doesn’t occur to you is that if Foley and Haggard had been able to be healthy, happy, honest homosexuals in your world (an impossibility because first you have to be willing to consider that one can be gay all those things as well) then Foley would still be in Congress and Mark Jones would still be an unknown former male prostitute from Colorado instead of the newest media whore from Colorado.

But back to what I said. You made this inevitable? How? Well, I’m reminded of a saying I heard in recovery circles years ago: We’re as sick as our secrets. I’d extend that by just adding that our secrets make us sick. Require someone to keep a secret, or construct some pretty serious disincentives to honesty, and … well … you make people sick.

So, maybe it’s a good sign that Martin’s coming out elicited a shrug and a “So what?” from many people. We may be approaching the day when it’s not newsworthy when someone comes out — and possibly even a day when no body needs to come out out of the closet, because no one needs to be in the closet to begin with. One thing that gets us closer to that day is more and more people coming out, thus making it less and less of a big deal.

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