CommunityPam's House Blend

Gay Kansans kicking the closet door open

According to an analysis of census data by Gary J. Gates, demographer at the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, there was a 30% increase in the number of same-sex couples in the U.S. over the last five years, rising from about 600,000 couples to nearly 777,000 in 2005.

In Kansas, that jump was even more significant. (NYT):

He found a 68 percent jump in Kansas households headed by same-sex partners between 2000 and 2005. In 2005, 11 out of every 1,000 couples living together in Kansas reported themselves as same-sex, according to Mr. Gates’s review of the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey data, a figure closer than one might expect to those recorded in New Jersey and New York, where 12 and 14 out of every 1,000 couples, respectively, are same-sex.

As the article notes, this isn’t because of gay couples flocking to the base camp state of Fred Phelps, these are folks already there — they’ve just decided to come out of the closet in response to anti-gay legislation. This is a state that had no statewide gay rights advocacy organization until 2004.  For those working for equality from the closet, it presented a choice whether to remain in the shadows or to come out.

Cyd Slayton, a resident of the affluent Kansas City suburb of Mission Hills, said she too was energized by the heated political debate. “I think the venom and the zealous campaigns to portray us as sinners has been a blessing, a catalyst for many more of us to share our stories,” she said.

She had spent her adulthood, if not fully closeted, then with the door only slightly ajar. Although she has been with a partner for a number of years, Ms. Slayton, who is 54, did not discuss her sexual orientation with her mother, her sisters or her colleagues at various companies where she worked making promotional films.

Even when she began campaigning against the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, she said, she was reluctant to identify herself as gay. Last year when a local TV news reporter asked her about her own sexual identity, she responded: why should it matter?

I panicked and then I took a very long pause and looked deep into the lens of the camera and said that I was gay,” she said. “It was the first time I’d ever said it publicly, and it was quite a moment.”

Ms. Slayton found that the more she opened herself up, the more she found solace. The day after the marriage amendment passed, her handyman, a Rush Limbaugh fan who came to install her air conditioner, expressed his sympathies. “He came upstairs and said `I’m just so sorry, Cyd, I know how hard you worked on this,’ ” she said. “He put his arm around me and it was just about as touching a thing that happened around this whole issue.”

No one ever regrets throwing open that closet door — the more that people realize that we are your neighbors, co-workers, teachers, and leaders in the community, the more strength and momentum the gay rights movement gains, and it makes demonization campaign by the Right less effective.

Hat tip, PageOneQ.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding