Yesterday, a respected and influential Facebook acquaintance wrote a post expressing his frustration with gays who wait to come out until they can make a profit off of it.
I read it and my heart immediately prompted this response which I posted, despite it being perceived as encroachment:
I think we should try to be kind to everyone no matter what their journey and labor to create a community that respects and welcomes everyone who eventually finds and embraces her/his authentic self.
My friend replied that perhaps I had somewhat missed his point and restated his position that he was welcoming to anyone who came out but against the notion of someone coming out just to profit off of it.
I couldn’t, however, let it go. I don’t believe I missed his point all that much. Or maybe I have an over-inflated sense of importance about my own opinion. Which, conveniently, is as follows:
In general, we Americans–hetero and homo–miss the boat on what makes a hero, don’t we?
I don’t know why we mourn Paul Walker more than we do the man who lost his life in the same crash or more than we do all the people around the world who died of hunger that very same day.
I don’t know why we gossip about and chide celebrities for staying in the closet but then lambast them once they do.
I don’t know why we celebrate Tom Daley’s courage out of one side of our mouths and then from the other side, question his explanation and trash the character of the man he’s in a relationship with.
I don’t know why celebrities think that in a world of pretend that is their career they can’t publicly live an authentic life. But I’m more befuddled about why a public can’t get past an actor’s sexuality in a pretend movie or show or while appreciating her/his art and why that has so much power over that celebrity.
I don’t know why elected officials hide personal convictions about human rights–say, about the rights of the women they’re married to or the children they know are gay– because of the fear of the people who elected them. That is, until it becomes more societally acceptable slash they think they can still get re-elected.
I don’t know why people so vigorously and defiantly hide their sexuality when generally they’re the last to know. And MOREso: why we closet cases felt compelled to do so much damage–feigning heterosexuality while we voted against our own kind by electing (and re-electing) men like Reagan and Bush and Bush.
I’m glad we celebrate men like Lt. Choi and post photos of service women and men kissing their same-gender partner. But I don’t know why we don’t remember men like Alan Turing or Leonard Matlovich and why we didn’t fight like hell when Clinton enacted DADT or effected DOMA.
I don’t know why we didn’t fight harder during the AIDS crisis, why we aren’t rioting in the streets–not because there’s still not universal marriage equality–but because there’s still no cure, and why millions of us are still having unsafe sex and contracting HIV 30+ years later. And oh yeah, THE VERY LIVES OF OUR LESBIAN AND GAY AND TRANS SISTERS AND BROTHERS ARE ARE AT RISK IN PLACES LIKE RUSSIA AND UGANDA yet we still drink Coca Cola and will probably watch those Olympics.
I don’t know why we remember–yea laud–Ellen for coming out but we don’t know a single name of those brave, pissed-off trannies who fought like hell at Stonewall. I don’t know why Rob Portman waited so long to support his gay child and change his vote. Or Barack Obama to evolve.
And yet, regardless of their motivation, I for one am so glad they did!
Every woman and man who comes out as L or G or B or T–or as an ALLY of someone who is–is a hero, no matter how late they might do it.
Milk and Kramer were absolutely right, as heavy-handed as they were. It will take every one of us to come out for this society to truly take notice of us. At the end of the day, it’s a personal choice; we can agree on that. But we’re certainly more powerful as a whole when we finally do. And we’re a better country when we accept it, embrace it, and proclaim our solidarity.
Bitterness is not only hurtful, it’s just not sexy. Compassion and solidarity are much more effective. Until we make it safe to come out in our own community and do so with kindness and respect, fear will simply reinforce all those closet doors that need to be busted down.
Don’t want to watch Ellen because you think she’s exploiting her sexuality, then by all means boycott her. I think the greater story is that although she was “late” to the party–let us not forget it was her party–her celebrity has changed thousands–if not millions of hearts and minds (and more than a few corporations) about being gay. [Of course are those corporations truly inclusive or just exploiting us because it's now "ok" to be out for gay rights? But that's a different blog.]
I wish we as a gay community could change our reputation as one of vapid sheep obsessed with fashion and body image (even as I write this on an elliptical) and material possessions and sex into one known for celebrating its history and culture. For fighting tooth-and-nail for the rights of anyone who’s suffering oppression. For attacking every instance of establishment and injustice and rooting out every single politician who is against equality of every citizen–no, human being!
Bravery comes in Many forms and is often a matter of perspective and the racing pulse of the beholder.
Perhaps the reason the high school boys have enough courage to attend their prom together is because some celebrity came out and nothing at all to do with why or when.
But that’s just me.