My friend and I walked by a Bridal Expo in Pasadena yesterday. A man was outside, handing out flyers for wedding photography. He started to give me one, and I started to take it – really, I was trying to do him a favor (flyering in 85 degree weather sucks) – then he started to pull it back. “Wait,” he said, and then waited. “You two can’t get married.” My friend demanded to know why not, and he said, slowly, “…You’re too young.” Oh, is that what we’re calling gays now? If by “too young,” he meant, “too gay,” he was right. I’m too gay to get married.
Today is October 11th, which is significant not only because it’s the day after the very celebrated 10/10/10, but also because it’s National Coming Out Day. Even though this day means more to some than to others in the same way that Chinese New Year is more festive for some than to others, it’s still important for everyone. You don’t have to be Chinese to enjoy a bit of that whole roasted pig; you don’t have to be gay to appreciate the underlying value of today.
You have to have a lot of balls, and be in the right part of the country, to come out now. I came out before the discombobulated express train that is the Tea Party, so while there was your run-of-the-mill homophobia, it was no where near the level of fear that has been normalized by the Mad Hatters. I also came out when I was a student in Berkeley, where everyone spends at least one semester gay, thinking they’re gay, or sorely disappointed that they are not gay. In contrast, we now don’t even have the privilege of claiming marriage rights as priority on the gay agenda; Prop. 8’s implicit battle against homophobia has been supplanted by an explicit battle for the right to live, period. It’s worth noting that on October 5, 2009, The New York Times had a piece called “Bullied for Being Gay”; exactly one year later, on October 5, 2010, the paper published a lesson plan for teachers on how to deal with the exact same issue, calling it a “troubling trend.” Troubling, yes; trend, not really; way of life, more likely. If we’re not still contending with physical bullying, then we’re trying to deal with asshat verbal bullies. New York Republican candidate for governor Carl Paladino, for the record, is not homophobic. He just hates gay people.
A friend of mine in the closet still (who this post really is meant for, bud) is very angry at straight people, and wonders what would happen if the shoe was on the other foot. Wouldn’t that be something? If, for one day, we were allowed to be heterophobic, complete with the ugly manifestation of that fear balled up with the insecurity, anxiety, and paranoia that accompanies any phobia? Can you imagine: a gang of gay kids harassing the straight kid in their math class because he was caught kissing little Peggy Sue behind the tetherball courts? Or if a prominent gay politician posited, during a speech to like-minded folks, that heterosexuals are the reason for the disintegration of the family unit (the systematic exclusion of gay couples from legal marriage means there really is only one group to blame for the 50% divorce rate), and that they are threatening “our” livelihood and very essence of being?
You cannot, of course, really fight hate with more hate and not end up with an unending, and unwinnable, war of attrition. But it is fun to imagine that for a bit, if only to relieve some anger at the people intent on killing you. That mental exercise aside, coming out right now is not easy. But it’s not impossible. You’ve locked yourself in the closet and can’t seem to find the key, but, hey, it’s been in your pocket all this time. You just need to help yourself to it. Once you unlock that door, you’ll find some people on the other side waiting with open arms, others with their arms folded. Ignore the folds. Aim for the hugs.
Once you tell one person (even if that one person is yourself), it’s a lot easier to tell the next person. Then the next, and the next. There are places you can go if you can’t talk to me. It took him a while, but even Clark Kent had to tell Lois Lane that he was Superman.
Featured image of the rainbow flag courtesy Ludovic Bertron and used under a Creative Commons license.