Friday, July 24, 2009

Being Out in the Closet

What does it mean to be out? Does it mean holding hands with your partner? Or is it placing a picture of your and your significant other on your desk in and HRC frame? What constitutes your out-ness?
This topic is particularly intriguing because it involves several different points of view. On one hand, the organizations advocating gay rights, LGBT places of entertainment, and community events are both enjoyable and essential to the prosperity of the movement. On the other hand, the question that's raised discusses the dependency of the LGBT community on these assets. Do they limit us from being as "out" as possible?
I look to the civil rights movement for suggestions. When segregation and Jim crow were prevalent in the south, blacks orchestrated sit-ins. Now, I'm not saying we should borough through town just sitting places, the framing of that movement will not be our own, but I think we should commit ourselves to more exposure. Social or political canvassing is a good way of being visible but I also think the act of attending an otherwise "Straight" event, can go a long way toward equality.
We need to practice being out, in our jobs, among our family, in our communities; we need to be in support of each other outside of the gay-bor-hood, that means practicing solidarity in places that may not be as receiving. This is not a chastisement of LGBT establishments or their patrons - I'm pretty sure I'll be at Fab lounge at some point this weekend - it's simply a different way of forwarding the movement.
LGBT people are no more or less perfect than their straight counterparts, however, as advocates for equal rights, we must use the vastness and diversity of the movement to reach our opponents. Think of it this way, Bishop Jackson and I may not agree on equal rights, but we may agree on eliminating poverty. I'm fairly certain there are LGBT people in his congregation, out or not. Although I may not be able to change his mind, by being a fervent supporter of gay rights and working with him on a cause we both agree on, I may change a few minds in his congregation. My visibility may expose people to the gay rights movement, and possibly sow a seed of doubt that their anti-gay stance is on the wrong side of history.
It's not necessary to "make everything about us", the gay rights movement will speak for itself. By just being out and actively pursuing community awareness, we make our mark. As Professor Richard Flacks says, "Historical action is not necessarily noted or recorded. A historical act may appear as exceedingly mundane behavior. A telephone call, a scribble on a memo pad, a push of a button can initiate a chain of actions and events that fundamentally reshape the live of millions."

We can't tell each other how to be out, we can only tell each other to Be Out; our personal relationships and connections can change minds. Don't wait for October, make your coming out day today. And to all the people who are actively practicing being out, reach out to someone who is on the threshold, support their journey, bravery will prevail most expeditiously when there is a glimmer of hope.

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