Thursday, October 12, 2006

NCOD + 1

Today is the day after National Coming Out Day (NCOD) and I am amazed at some of the things I am reading and hearing on blogs and elsewhere. I am finding gay people judging one another for either coming out or for choosing to not come out. I'm hearing people wondering why we should even bother or find the need to come out. Folks, coming out or not coming out is a personal decision that is no one's business but the individual involved. For some coming out can have disastrous consequences. For others it can cause personal discomfort for which they aren't ready. FOr some coming out can bring a great sense of relief or comfort. Some choose to come out to bring honesty and openness to relationship in their lives. Some come out for political and social reasons. One of the key facts that I stress in talking to people who are struggling with the coming out question is this: WHY are you taking this step? Are you doing it for healthy reasons like openness and honesty? Are you doing it to shock and cause controversy or hurt? Are you doing it because someone told you you should? Are you not doing it out of fear? Whatever reasons you have for coming out or not coming out, know your motives! If they are positive in nature, then go for it. If they are negative, hurtful, or malicious then rethink your course of action. Your sexual orientation/preference or lifestyle is YOUR business. What you do with the information is YOUR business.

Moving beyond that for a moment, anyone who has been gay for more than a week or two has quickly learned that coming out is not an event but an ongoing process that sadly never ends. From showing up at Mom's for Thanksgiving dinner with your boyfriend to opening a joint checking account, to talking to folks at work, to coming to terms with your own sexuality, it never ends. Sometimes it is openly verbal; other times it is apparent by actions or the company you keep. There are some who have posted on their obviously gay blogs that they have chosen to not come out. Guess what? To some extent, the very existence of their blog is an act of coming out.

I guess the gist of this post is to say that I am amazed that the very people who are painfully aware of the risks of coming out (our own people) are judging and criticizing the rights of others to make this very personal decision. The more of us who come out in any number of ways the easier it may become for others, but it is still their choice. So lighten up already! If you are bold enough and able to come out, do so and speak up for the countless GLBT folks who, because of society and its pressures cannot or choose not to publicly proclaim their orientation.

Just a quick note to close: today is the anniversary of the death of Matthew Sheppard. Is there any clearer evidence of some of the potential dangers of being out? Take a moment and remember Matt today and pray for a brighter today and tomorrow for people everywhere. Let us learn to live in a society in which we don't rush to judge a person's worth based on who they are or on whether or not they go public with their information.

1 comment:

Steve said...

Like you, I've always been amazed at the pure vituperation that accompanies the come out/stay in discussions. It took me nearly 40 years to come to terms with my sexuality, and having had someone "out" me before I was ready would have been horrific.

Coming out has been a series of starts-n-stops, of climbing a bit, resting on my laurels a bit, and climbing some more. Each person I've come out to has made it easier to open the door a bit farther.

By the same token, I'm a strong advocate of coming out - once you're in a place where you feel you can. I get worried about teens and people in homophobic places (like working for the church).

I do think that the idea of outing people against their will is really sad. The one place I don't have any problem with it is when people have been strongly anti-gay in public, and then gettin' their fun on the down-low, as it were. If you play that game, you're asking to be hit with the hypocrite stick, I think.

I found my way here from BentonQuest - it will be interesting to add your writings to the list...