Sunday, October 10, 2010
Come out, come out, whoever you are!
Forty years ago, on March 10, 1970, my partner Laura kicked down the closet door and has been out ever since. Monday October 11 is National Coming Out Day. On Monday, Laura, an English professor, is coming out again, this time to her classes.
Our very dear friend counseled her not to do it, saying it's too risky. What if you lose your job? But her school has a diversity policy that would prevent that, and there are other out teachers on campus. Because of the number of gay teen suicides in the past week alone, she really feels compelled to come out to her students. Five gay teens committed suicide last week, in the kind of total anguish and despair that only teens can feel -- the hopelessness that nothing will ever get better, that their lives are over because of one event. They chose a permanent solution to a temporary problem. We are all responsible that this happened, every one of us, by our apathy, by our inattention, by our jaded tolerance of intolerance.
I have always believed that if everyone who was gay came out, there would be no more discrimination, because people would finally see we are not the stereotypes, the subjects of jokes, the weirdos and perverts that many straight people think we are. These are the images that shame gay kids and make them kill themselves, that make other kids think that being gay is bad and empowers them to tease and torment and terrorize, and sometimes even kill. Being gay is neither bad nor good; it is simply a condition of existence, like having blue eyes, or skin that freckles instead of tans in the sun. If we all came out, maybe people would see for once and for all that we are just ordinary people -- their teachers and doctors and grocery clerks and coworkers and coreligionists and favorite entertainers and their family members and maybe even that nice person who smiled at them on the way to work this morning and let them into their lane of traffic. Maybe they would see that we have long-term loving relationships just as they do, and families and jobs and perfectly ordinary interests just like theirs. Maybe then they would allow these kids to grow up healthy and proud and whole instead of self-loathing and scared and suicidal.
So I am very proud of Laura for coming out to her students. If her doing so saves even one kid, it is worth all the risk our friend fears she is exposing herself to. It took me 60 years to do what she did with pride 40 years ago. I know what those kids go through. I want them to be whole and proud and healthy and have good, productive lives. And live to be very, very old.
photo credit: Essygie