October 11 is National Coming Out Day.
We may be winning the culture war one day at a time (see the marriage equality ruling in Connecticut on Friday), but not everyone has the option of coming out of the closet in this country —
* Without ENDA, LGBT citizens can be fired from a job where there are no local anti-discrimination protections.
* We most certainly see members of the community get the crap beaten out of them — or worse — in many parts of the country, even Blue states.
* and it goes without saying if you have anti-gay parents and you're not yet 18 (or are dependent on them for support), coming out is probably a really bad idea unless you are prepared for the consequences of them taking the news badly.
That said, coming out is the most powerful thing one can do, but it cannot be done in isolation; straight allies have to be willing to publicly defend their gay friends and acquaintances.
* Support Equality organizations in your state, particularly if it is at risk for an amendment challenge as we see this time around in CA, AZ and FL. Give your time and money, if you can spare. In North Carolina, the organization at the grassroots level is Equality NC.
* Get involved. It's easy to write a check or complain from the sidelines and the comfort of our keyboards about the effectiveness of those working locally and nationally on our behalf; it's another to come out, live out and work to make a difference — whether it's writing your representatives, grassroots activism, or making an effort to engage with your friends, neighbors and colleagues about equality issues.
* If you are straight and an ally, COME OUT. Support your gay friends and loved ones when you hear intolerant conversation, politely engage ignorance with information.
Each Coming Out Day I ask this Q of the Day:
Are you out to…
— your friends?
— your immediate family?
— your extended family?
— any/some/most of your colleagues at work?
— your boss?
— your doctors?
— your neighbors?
I'm happy to say that I can check off all of those today, but it took years of constantly coming out, choosing when “the right time” would be to come out to any of the above groups. It's a seemingly endless process, never easy, almost always awkward (since I'm an introvert to begin with). It's not like something that comes up in casual conversation, nor do you really want it to. But eventually kicking the door open beats life in the closet.
For my straight readers:
— are you “out” as an ally?
— are you able to talk about gay friends or relatives with others?
— are you comfortable shooting down homophobes when they spout off during a conversation?
PFLAG’s Straight for Equality produces a wonderful and entertaining education resource, “Guide To Being a Straight Ally” and it can be downloaded here. Take The Straight for Equality Pledge to support and be an advocate for LGBT civil equality.
More below the fold, including videos.
Here's a short video about my story –
I came out in my late 20s. When I came out to my mother, it was fairly anticlimactic. She wasn't particularly angry but, of course, sad because of all of visions of what a daughter should be were sort of shattered. But I don't think she was entirely surprised, nor was my brother when I came out to him. He has always been supportive.
One thing I do regret is that my mom passed away before she could see me marry my wife, Kate, when we married in Vancouver. But all of my family has been extremely supportive. In fact, they probably knew, but it never was made explicit until I sent my announcement that we married to everyone via e-mail and in a card in the mail. So if people didn't know, that was one way to come out all at once.
The one thing everyone can do is come out if it is at all possible, if it is safe for you to do so. And that's a big caveat, but I think that for many people coming out is more of an internal process than it is the external process. Many people, once they do come out, find that most people either knew or thought that they were [gay] and had made peace with that. So I hope you take this time to think about whether it's time to kick open that closet door.
HRC’s 2008 National Coming Out Day video:
Clay Aiken’s GMA interview
This is worth viewing on this day. It took me some time finally get around to seeing this interview with Diane Sawyer. It’s a really touching piece on Clay Aiken and his coming out process. He says that he really came out to himself in 2003 when he was on American Idol, and that the first person he told was fellow Idol contestant Kimberley Locke. He also discusses how he came out to his family.
All I can say is it’s clear that he is a much more relaxed and confident out gay man than the tentative, evasive Clay Aiken we saw on Larry King Live avoiding the question of his orientation a while back. Good for him for opening the closet door, and good for him for doing it for his son.
On the amendment front in 2008, fight back – defeating these ballot initiatives is absolutely not a given, it can go either way:
And as we head into the 2008 presidential race home stretch, you can show the power of the LGBT vote on NCOD by sending a contribution to Obama via the LGBT for Obama web site so it’s flagged as money from the community. Even small dollar contributions make a difference and show you’re “representing.”
UPDATE: How about this — I just received this great email from Jim Toevs, who plans to do something pretty unique this National Coming Out Day:
I am an old (67) white guy, I drive a pickup truck, I believe in God, own a couple of guns, and I AM Gay, so if we are talking about God, Guns and Gays, I think I qualify.
Here’s his contribution —
Coming Out as a Montana Redneck 4 Obama
Twenty-one years ago, on the occasion of the first National Coming Out Day, October 11, 1987, I was one of three LBGT folks featured, with photo, on the front page of USA Today in an article written by Craig Wilson.
At that time, I was a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Pride Foundation, and Vice-President of Corporate Real Estate for Seattle-First National Bank, living with my then-partner in Seattle
Every year since then, I have looked for the opportunity to “take my next step” in the coming out process.
For several years, I have lived in rural Montana in the middle of the Flathead Indian Reservation in the town of Hot Springs, population 541. Everyone who knows me, and anyone who cares to know, knows that I am gay.
Yesterday, I saw an article on Raw Story about Rednecks for Obama. It was a story about two older Missouri men who were tired of the Karl Rove tactics of equating God, Guns, and NASCAR; with voting Republican. They made up a big “Rednecks 4 Obama” banner and have been present at the site of both the Vice-Presidential Debate, and last week’s Presidential Debate in Nashville, where they have caused quite a stir.
An idea began to form in my head. I called the Printery in the neighboring town of Plains and asked them to make of a 3′ x 8′ vinyl banner that said:
“MONTANA REDNECKS 4 OBAMA”
Yesterday afternoon I went over and picked up the banner and have been contemplating how to put it to use ever since.
This evening, while soaking in the hot springs here in town, I came up with the answer.
Tomorrow morning, I will park my pickup across the street from the Post Office and hang the “MONTANA REDNECKS 4 OBAMA” banner on the plumber’s rack of my old Toyota pickup, directly in the line of sight of every person who exits the Post Office parking lot.
One of the things I have learned over the years is that EVERYONE needs to come out about something.
I have also learned that it is important for me to walk THROUGH my fear. If I allow myself to be afraid of one thing, sooner or later I will be afraid of everything.
So, this National Coming Out Day, my next step will be coming out as a “Montana Redneck 4 Obama”.
Am I a little scared? You damn right! But I am just going to go ahead and do it anyway.