Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Coming Out Day

Almost one year ago, I posted an emotional response to the uptick in media coverage of teen suicide.  I hope you will take a few minutes to go read that post.  I've read it a few times since writing it and just reread it for that link and I still stand by everything I wrote.

Today is National Coming Out Day.  Oct 11, 1987 was the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.  Oct 11, 1988 was the first National Coming Out Day. 

Most people who come to realize that they are gay, have a moment when they officially "come out."  Most of the gay people I know have a story to tell about their realization, about facing that truth, and about turning to loved ones to share what they are feeling and experiencing.

I have a couple of stories of friends who have come out to me. 

The first coming out story that I remember actually helped change my perspective on homosexuality.  I was raised that being gay was wrong.  It's a sin, it's not God's way.  I've obviously not followed that line of thinking.  In high school, there was a young man that I really respected.  He was quiet, he was brilliant, he was gentle, he was shy.  He had a good group of friends.  I think it was our senior year when he came out.  It blew my mind.  He was nothing like what I had in my head as an image of a gay person.  My first exposure to gay people had been a few years prior when I accidentally happened upon a gay pride parade in San Francisco.  That sparked my interest in the culture but also set a very flamboyant and colorful picture in my head of what a gay person is supposed to be like.  But this guy in my class was nothing like that- he was so "normal."  That's what started to crack my blinders, I think. 

The next story was more dramatic and traumatic and personal.  A very close friend had a hard time facing his sexuality and spun into an out of control hurricane of nuttiness when the feelings started to really emerge.  Instead of opening up to his friends, he pushed us away.  He pushed really hard.  None of us knew what was going on- just that he was aiming to hurt us, hurt himself, and that he wanted nothing to do with us anymore.  My friends and I eventually heard of his coming out through the grapevine.  The sad thing is that because he had started down a slippery slope and wasn't taking care of himself and he had distanced himself in hard ways from his friends, rumors swirled pretty aggressively for several months.  He had been my best friend and it was a hard situation to deal with.  It took almost a year before we started to reconcile.  And we ended up closer than ever- he's my soul mate BFF.

Another story was an adult friend who came out after many years of marriage and several kids.  And it was also traumatic.  I wish we'd been clsoer friends so I could have been more of a support to him.  I was an important piece of his story but if we'd known each other longer, I could have been more, I think.  The tragedy was that the people who who he thought were his support system ended up turning on him in some very hurtful ways.  The blessing was that there were people who stepped up in love and support that were very much needed. 

What I want you to know is that I am a safe person to talk to about feelings or thoughts you might be having.  I want you to know that I won't judge you or turn you away or tell you that you're dirty or wrong or unlovable.  I want you to know that if you call me up and tell me that you're gay, I'm going to smile on my end of the line and I'm going to tell you that I love you and that I'm proud of you and that I'm honored that you trust me.  If you tell me face to face, there will be hugs for you.  And I will be celebrating with you and for you. 

It's National Coming Out Day!  It's a day that should be about celebrating who you are.  And I think it's a day that should be about more than gay people revealing their sexuality to others.  I think it's a day when straight allies should be unashamed to stand up in support of the LGBTQ community.  I'm out and I'm proud as an ally who gives a damn!



Garret said...

You rock Liz. Really.

Alison said...

I just recently re-read that post, lol! I think anyone who reads you regularly knows you'd be safe to come out to. What really rocks is knowing that when Teagan and Zach are older, they and their friends will also know that. So there's one group of (yet-to-be-) teens who will have someone safe to turn to.

We can always hope that by the time that happens, "coming out" will be no big deal.

beth said...

Hugs hugs hugs!! You are awesome!!

(And in case you didn't know, I'm a lesbian. :D )

Jason, as himself said...

I wish you were my real life friend and not just my bloggy friend. You're the best. Thanks for this post, and thank you even more for a lifetime of love.

Karen M. Peterson said...

I can't really recall a time that someone came out. Most of the people I know that are gay, I've just always known. Interesting. Either I'm surrounded by people who know who they are, or by people who still don't, or I don't know enough gay people. I don't know which it is, but it's great that there are so many resources now for people to not feel so alone.

mimbles said...

I have a cousin who is gay, when he came out to family my mum passed the news on to me, I remember saying something like "He is? Ah, that makes sense!" I understand there was a little bit of unfortunate reflexive response from his dad at first (my uncle had grown up in a fairly conservative environment) but by the time I next saw him a few months later everyone had settled into a very relaxed acceptance. There are many things about my family that are kind of awesome.

Hey, did you see the marriage equality video that my mum, my daughter and I were involved in?