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Julianne Hing, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Ferguson Highlights ‘Real Racial Problem’ in U.S., Colorlines (Aug. 22, 2014). (via notoriousrbg)
RBG is the best.
I thought this brilliant observation by a remarkable woman was an appropriate message for National Coming Out Day. A little something to think about.
In honor of #NationalComingOutDay, here’s my coming out story. (Originally published 11 October, 2013 on WordPress.com)
I wanted to write something brilliant and inspiring for National Coming Out Day, something that would give future generations hope and pride. Then like most of my “inspiring ideas” I put it off until the last minute. So here I am at 12:15 AM with a head full of thoughts and nothing on paper … er, document file.
My earliest conversation about homosexuality was a curt one. I was maybe six years old. The idea of marrying a person of the opposite sex was alien to me. I knew that’s what people were supposed to do, but It wasn’t something I wanted to do. I didn’t think girls were yucky, or had cooties. It’s just that I knew I didn’t want to spend my life with a girl. So, one day, I casually asked my grandmother if two boys could get married. Well… I will never forget the look in her face. You would have thought I had grown another head. “NO!” she snapped. “It’s illegal.” And just like that, the conversation was over. But I held onto that thought. I filed it away for later use. The acrimony in her answer would become the foundation upon which my closet was built.
As I grew older, I discovered that people did not approve of gays. Many, like the men in my family were downright malicious. My grandfather made racial epithets part of his everyday vernacular and saved a few choice words for gay men. He said the word “faggot” with such vile hatred I used to cringe. My father might not have been as aggressive, but he was his father’s son. — Perhaps being on the receiving end of that hostility helped me to empathize with others.
By the time I was ten years old I was discovering sex. My best friend found discarded Playboy magazines and was eager to share with the gang. We gathered round, gawking and giggling. Everything is giggles with boys that age. — I tried so hard to be interested. I wanted so much to find something appealing in those images. I really did. I wasn’t put off. Women’s bodies don’t repulse me. I just wasn’t interested.
It was about this time that I happened upon a Playgirl magazine. It probably belonged to my stepsister. I took a look. This was the moment. This was the game changer. Suddenly, I knew. – And I was filled with a combination of relief, exhilaration, and dread. The fact that I had finally experienced sexual excitement was such a relief, but that relief was short lived. All of a sudden panic struck. No! This couldn’t possibly be happening! Why me?? Yes. The $64,000 question, “Why me?” I was so distressed by the thought that God felt it necessary to pile such a huge burden on my shoulders. It wasn’t enough that my parents divorced and I don’t know my mother, now God was against me too? My feeling of despair was made worse because I had no one to turn to. — A young person of color goes home to a family of people just like him or her. LGBT youth are most often alone in a family of heterosexuals. They lack representation in their own family, their own home.
I made it my mission to learn all I could about homosexuality. I was already spending lots of time in the library, so I started there. The resources were slim. I searched every dictionary, encyclopedia, and medical book I could find. I uncovered little more than clinical definitions and misguided assumptions, but I never stopped looking. — To this day, I soak up every bit of LGBT history and culture I can find.
As puberty took hold, I learned to reinforce my closet door. Attitudes towards gays at school were negative at best. Kids can be so cruel. Anti-gay epithets could be heard from students and teachers alike. I was on constant guard. But I also kept an eye open for clues that there might be others just like me. I sought out allies, but was convinced I was the only gay person in my town. — Silly me.
By my fifteenth summer I was swimming at the nearest YMCA, conveniently located a mere ten miles away. After a swim I’d go to a nearby book and magazine shop to pick up something to read on the long trolley ride home. One day, while perusing the periodicals, the words “gay pride” caught my attention. Oh. My. God. Could it be? The clean cut moustachioed man on the cover smiled down at me. I was nervous. How was I going to ask the cashier to sell me this magazine? I looked for something else to buy. There was no way I’d have the nerve to buy this one gay themed magazine alone. Maybe if I asked for a bunch of titles the clerk wouldn’t notice the gay one. — Does that ever work?– I continued scanning the rack, but my eyes kept returning to the smiling man. In a panic, I mispronounce the name of the magazine. I had to point it out to the clerk. I was nervous and somewhat embarrassed, but I managed to buy a cooking and a gossip magazine to go with that wonderful window into gay life, The Advocate. The minute I got home, I stashed the magazine where every teenage boy thinks no one will look. Say it with me… “under the mattress.”
My first job was at a local convenience store. I was friends with a few of my coworkers and got together with them after work on Saturday nights. It was nothing elaborate. We piled into a friend’s beat up old car and went to a movie, a diner or bowling. Sometimes we would just drive around, carrying on like teenagers do. It was on one of those nights that everything changed.
My friends dropped me off at home so I could change out of my work clothes. My parents were quietly seated in the living room. I said hello, and proceeded upstairs to get cleaned up. I was shocked by what greeted me. My bedroom was in shambles. More importantly, the mattress had been tossed aside. They knew! I was convinced my father was going to throw me out of the house. I was crushed.
I gathered all the courage I could and without looking at my folks, calmly left the house. My friends were waiting in the car for me. I must have looked pretty bad because one of my friends asked what was wrong. I told them I might need a place to stay for a while. When asked why, I skirted the issue. Eventually, the truth came out. Surprisingly, my small group of friends was supportive. We talked for more than an hour. The car never made it out of the parking spot. After encouragement from my friends, I reluctantly returned home to face my fate.
My parents were more upset that I didn’t feel comfortable enough to open up to them than they were about the magazines. My dad was disappointed, but not surprised that his son was gay. “Straight boys “ he said. “don’t usually hang around with girls.” The fact that there were boys in my group didn’t matter to him. There were more than three girls in the group, so I was gay. – Sounds logical to me.
My parent’s told me the reason they searched my room was because they suspected drug use. For the record, I was not using any kind of illegal substance. I didn’t even smoke. I was under the misconception that LGBT folks didn’t do drugs. Yes. I was that naive.
After graduating high school, I met my first love. We weren’t really a good match, first loves rarely are. He helped me through the death of my grandfather, but his habit of sending love notes outed me to my grandmother. She opened a birthday card that was addressed to me and didn’t like the romantic nature of the enclosed message. My grandmother took it as a personal affront, like in some bizarre act of rebellion I decided to be gay. She demanded that I find a nice girl and change my ways or she would disown me
Up until that moment, my grandmother and I had always been close. She took care of me for the three years between my father’s divorce and his marriage to my stepmother. I learned a lot about my Italian heritage through her. I learned how to cook from her. So it was especially painful to hear her say that my being gay made her “sick to her stomach”.
A friend of mine told me to…
Today is National Coming Out Day, and while plenty of people and organizations will encourage you to join the fabulous and come out, it’s not a decision to be taken lightly, nor is it a requirement of you right away. Trust me, I’m in full support of more people coming out of the closet if they’re ready, but if you’re considering coming out, it’s essential to do so after plenty of evaluation and self-reflection.
Coming out is a deeply personal experience, so how and when you do it is your decision alone to make. As you make your plan, consider these five points.
1. Is it safe?
You might be bursting to tell your secret to the world, but the absolute most important thing to ask yourself first is, “Is this safe for me to do?” Much of the answer to this question is built on your support system, which I mention in more detail shortly. The realities of some situations can be harsh, and while I’m in no way attempting to scare or discourage you, it’s important to remember that some people won’t react as positively as others. In fact, some situations can be dangerous at home or in school. That is why it’s important to accept and love yourself first, because that may have to be enough for a while. If your living situation would be unsafe if you came out, then coming out might be better to wait until the circumstances improve, when you have a backup plan and a support system to rely on. Your safety is more important than anything.
2. Have a support system.
A support system can be a teacher, a friend, a co-worker, a sibling, anyone. Anyone who will stand by you and love you unconditionally and listen to you with an open mind is a support system. While it’s great to be optimistic about your family’s reactions to you opening up and being wonderful you, it’s more important that you be prepared should things not turn out the way you want them to. Before coming out to someone whose reaction you might be unsure of, try coming out to someone you’re more certain will have a positive response, and then keep their number handy should you need someone to speak to after such an important conversation. Should you absolutely feel that coming out is your only option and you do not have a reliable support system, you can always call the Trevor Project at 1-800-488-7386. They love you without even meeting you, and they are there waiting to listen 24/7.
3. Make a plan.
There is no one perfect way to come out. You’ll see blog posts and articles all over the Internet with tips like “don’t come out during an argument” or “make sure you’re 100-percent certain of your sexuality or gender identity before you come out.” While some of that can be sound, safe advice, it’s important to remember that nobody but you will understand your situation fully. Plan out what you want to say and the feelings and emotions you want to communicate. Anticipate questions you might be asked on the spot so that you can feel confident and comfortable answering them. Most of all, prepare yourself emotionally for questions or statements that might surprise you. Prepare to be unprepared, if you will, and be ready to have a conversation. You’re beautiful and wonderful, and nobody on Earth can come close to replacing you. Just as you are unique and special, so are your situations with your parents, friends, co-workers, etc., and only you can determine the best course of action for each.
4. Consider the outcome(s).
There are several ways this can turn out. Whoever you’re telling may surprise you with their overwhelming acceptance, or they may respond with disapproval. Many parents build an image for themselves of their children’s lives and futures. They have hopes and dreams for you, and they may have some stigmatized views of LGBT lifestyles. If you think your parents (or whoever else it is you’re coming out to) will respond with religious condemnation, for example, prepare some basic responses and arguments that can set the way for a comprehensive and affirmative conversation down the line. Coming out is very rarely a one-time event. It’s a process that involves helping both sides understand one another’s emotions and struggles. When we speak to each other with open minds, we pave the way for a more accepting and educated society. However, some people never fully accept that their loved one is LGBT, and while we can live full, happy lives with this being the case, it’s an outcome that we must be prepared for.
5. Love yourself.
This is easier for some than for others. In fact, this can be the most difficult of all, and it may take some time, but my hope for your “coming-outcome” is that you look at yourself and say, “That was a brave thing to do, and I’m going to be all right.” Coming out and ultimately accepting yourself for the beautiful human being that you are is one of the bravest things a person can do. With more individuals coming out at an earlier age, we’re getting closer to a society of love and acceptance. You may need your support system to remind you how amazing you are from time to time, and that’s OK. At the end of the day, after the arguments, the laughter, the crying and the hugging, you’re still you. And that’s awesome.
Everyone is angry.
I’m sure you’ve noticed.
Angrier than usual
We’re all talking.
The volume increases.
The cacophony fades
into the background
as we scream
to be heard.
It’s almost like
in some alternate
created by Springer