Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.
Being “out” is personal, and it’s political. And while there are obvious differences, I include the “out” heterosexual supporters of LGBT equality.
Not long ago I shared a marriage equality story on Facebook, a straight friend then shared it, and very quickly he was strongly questioned by three or four of his FB friends, primarily based on their understanding of Christianity. He handled it very well, and really didn’t need my help, but I did enter the discussion, politely pointing out that while each person had every right to their perspective, and to expressing it, I wanted them to know that I was the person who shared the story about which they were commenting, and those comments were about me, not a generality. Two people responded. One thanked me for “not jumping all over us, as you had a right to do,” saying she disagreed with me, but did so respectfully. The other person just couldn’t let it go, and told me, “I’m sorry the truth hurts.” It’s an argument I’ve heard for many years, amounting to “my truth sets me and mine free, to hell with the rest of you.” I didn’t bother to reply.
The “coming out” process really never ends, of course. Nor do conversations about how and when it happens. With the recent reports of Sally Ride’s death, and her “coming out” through her obituary – “Ride is survived by her partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaughnessy, her mother, her sister and other family members” – those conversations are once again occurring. The bottom line for me: just as each of us should be free and safe to be out, each of us should be free and safe to make decisions about that for ourselves. The one situation which differs is in regard to closeted individuals in positions of influence who use that position to harm LGBT’s. In general, though, I think “Everyone should come out just like me” is very similar to “everyone should live by the same ‘truth’ as me.”
At Box Turtle, Jim Burroway writes a very thoughtful commentary about all of this.
I don’t know what it says about us that we expect … that anyone who gains any kind of achievement, fame, or notoriety, they must accede to our demands and come out of the closet — which we define not in terms of acknowledging their relationships to their friends, familes, neighbors, coworkers and others who are important to them, but to reporters, bloggers and PR specialists who are important to us.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful to those who do come out publicly … . But isn’t it one of the goals that we are striving to achieve that everyone can live their own lives as publicly — and as privately — as they wish … ?
Michelangelo Signorile writes about Ride’s “posthumous coming out” as a “gift”:
Sally Ride dispeled all the ugliness foisted on this country in recent weeks by the Boy Scouts of America, Chick-Fil-A and Jennifer Carroll, Florida’s GOP lieutenant governor, who, denying charges that she had sex with another woman in her office, claimed women who look like her are not involved in same-sex relationships (and refuses to apologize).
I wrote about the Boy Scout decision to continue their “no gays wanted” policy here. The Chick-Fil-A story, in general, has been around for years, because Chick-Fil-A has never hidden their anti-LGBT stance. It’s gotten recent attention because the company’s president, Dan Cathy, was quoted in the Baptist Press as saying, among other things, “We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit.”
Another instance of “my truth must be your truth” thinking. At Good as You, Jeremy Hooper writes:
My interest in this story, as with all stories involving corporate America, is about the message that the business is sending to society. The reason why I want Dan Cathy to be held accountable … (is because) I know the potential ill effects of that sentiment all too well.
Such “messages” are a part of the context that a few people hear as “physical attacks are okay.” Unfortunately I have three recent examples of such assaults.
First, via Bilerico, Karen Ocamb writes:
… a lesbian in Lincoln, Nebraska … called police around 4 a.m. Sunday, saying men wearing black ski masks had broken into her home … . She told police the men assaulted her – binding her hands and carving words into her skin with a knife – and then set fire to the house. …
… Erin Thompson … , who described herself as the victim’s best friend, said … three epithets, including the word ‘dyke,’ were carved on her arms and stomach. The woman … walked, naked and bound, to a neighbor’s house to get help … .
An ABC News report begins: (my emphasis)
Nebraska cops are hunting three masked men who carved derogatory epithets into the body of an openly gay woman.
I don’t presume that everyone who uses “openly gay” intends anything negative, but it’s still an odd piece of the current reality of efforts toward LGBT equality: being “openly” gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, being “out,” is a positive, but potentially dangerous, thing to do.
Another example, via Joe My God:
An Oklahoma gay man says he was nearly killed this weekend after vandals scrawled ‘fag’ on his car and set it ablaze.
And via Metro Weekly:
A local gay couple was attacked just after midnight Sunday, July 22 … . The attack occurred in the Eckington neighborhood of Northeast D.C.
All three attacks occurred last weekend. DC, Nebraska and Oklahoma happened to be the locations of these particular incidents, but the truth is, being “openly” anything but heterosexual can still be dangerous, wherever you are. And the Boy Scouts and Chick-Fil-A contribute to that “dangerous” fact.
HOUSEKEEPING NOTE: In response to questions I’ve received – My Queer Talk pieces will continue to post at noon each Friday through the summer, then return to Saturday in the fall. While my daily posts are up at 4 PM, the truth is, posting can occur most any time on most any day. All of that to say: don’t forget to scroll down, to be sure you see all posts, Taylor’s as well as mine. Finally, when it works for you, clicking on “like” is always a helpful thing.
(Rainbow Girl by Emili Naish via WipeOutHomophobiaOnFB)