National Coming Out Day was celebrated this past Monday in the States. It was only by a matter of serendipity that I happened to blog about the Mormon asshattery on sale at Wal-Mart, so I can’t claim that was explicitly in honor of the day in all honesty. In point of fact, I’d completely missed it. I don’t feel too bad though — my gay sister didn’t know about it either.
When Jen came out to me as a lesbian, she asked, “what’s the worst possible thing I could tell you about myself?” I answered without hesitation, “That you voted conservative.” For just about anything else — from theism to sexuality to being a member of a pseudoscientific multi-level pyramid scheme — I could live and let live, and have debates on the topic in a reasoned manner. If she’d turned out to be a conservative, I’d have demanded a level of intellectual integrity to account for all the myriad ways the conservative parties directly harm anyone below upper-middle-class, and by extension harm everyone in the entire field of economics as a whole. (Never elect a politician to office whose chief political belief is that government is wrong and must be destroyed. They’ll only do whatever they can to make government wrong and worthy of destruction.) Her sexuality, I could not honestly care any less about.
So when she came out, I thought back (as I am wont to do when I receive new information that colors past events) to all the hints that she might be gay, and I wished I could have been there for her sooner, knowing that other family members have not taken her coming out nearly as well. If there’s one thing I could go back in time somehow and tell her, it’s that it gets better.
Stephanie Zvan didn’t miss the day-of, so I’ll lean on her:
It also makes me quite happy that most of the people I know who fall under the broad heading of GLBTQ (where Q = queer of some sort) are already generally out. A friend of a friend referred to today as “Happy ‘Yeah we know dude’ day.” Today was a day for affirmation for most of them, rather than a day of added risk or longing for what it would be unwise to actually do. One person I’m proud to call a friend used the day to come out as bisexual to her Catholic family.
I’d also like to point out a very touching piece by George W. about the damage done to him as a child in being called “fag”, and how he wears the name like a badge today, despite being a married heterosexual father of four.
When I was in high school I was a notorious fag. Not because I was gay, because I am not. No, I was a fag because I was the president of the drama club, because I hung out with the “wrong people” and because I stood up to the “right people”. I was a fag because I didn’t much care for the politics of high school, I knew who I was and who I was not. I was a fag because I was a little too charismatic to be a “nerd”, a little too normal to be a “freak”, but not popular enough to be spared the humiliation of a bunch of insecure bullies with adult bodies and child brains.
I was subjected to the same kind of teasing. I was a nerd, and called so often, but it was also often rumored that I was gay (the way just about every unpopular kid that can’t get a date ends up having rumors circulated about them). I was punched in the head once for telling a particular name-calling bully to keep his eyes to himself in the locker room, and yet I was the one called gay. That’s how socialization in most grade schools work today. It’s horrid, looking back on it today. And it’s all the more so for people in that age group. Especially if you actually fit the queer description.
When a town council meeting resulted in half the town’s population arguing against a proclamation of October as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender History Month in Norman, Oklahoma, a 19-year-old boy ended up taking his life over the “toxic comments”. This kind of tragedy could be prevented via less homophobia, less prejudging of people’s character based on a single outlier trait like their sexuality.
What’s worse is, almost every one of the homophobes in attendance argued against the Gay History Month purely out of deference to their religion’s foundational text. Assuming the text is the Bible, most interpretations prohibit suicide (to keep people from offing themselves unnaturally just to get to the “reward” part of their little cult). If this young teen internalized the message not to off himself, he might have lived long enough to realize that once you’re out in the real world, outside of backwater small-town Oklahoma, you won’t be as shunned and won’t be subject to nearly the same amount of toxicity every day.
It gets better. It really does. If you’re a teen, and you’re considering suicide because everyone around you seems to hate you for an aspect of your biology that you can’t change, you should visit the Trevor Project to access resources including live-chat with other teens that have been where you are now. I know it seems like it won’t, and I know it seems like there are too many people in political power right now that despise you because you’re different. But committing suicide is giving in to their desires. Offing yourself just shuffles your life under the rug so you can no longer serve as a counterexample to their hate speech.
Besides, this is the only life you’ve got. Fill it with love. It doesn’t matter what gender you love, ultimately; only that you love.