The Importance of Coming Out: For those Heterosexuals who cannot Understand
There was a time in American history that certain light-skinned African-Americans – those who could – would pass themselves off as white, which was known as “passing“, before the Civil Rights era. It helped them to secure better jobs and a better standing in society. In other words, a few blacks who could hide the fact that they were black because of their light-skinned hid the fact that African-American blood flowed through their veins in order to fit in and not have the stigma that most black people lived with, thanks to the bigotry that once was the rule of law and of society.
I use this example as the same reason to some extent that gays throughout history have hidden the fact they were gay, by doing so it protected them from the stigma of being gay. In some countries today, it is of the utmost importance that gay people hide the fact they are gay, because not to do so could mean their freedom and their safety from harm, even death.
It is of course, much easier for most gay people to hide they are gay than it is for an African-American to hide that they are black, unless he or she is light-skinned enough and their features were not distinctive of African-American heritage. I of course know many gay men and women who just cannot hide the fact they are gay; their personality traits are so strong that it makes it very difficult not to stand out.
Then there are gays who are like the football player Michael Sam, who recently came out to the public, who can hide their gayness because that individual does not show feminine traits. The same thing goes with lesbians; some lesbians are very feminine and no one would know they are gay unless they make it known. Then there are lesbians – as many of the friends I have known over the years – who are very masculine in nature and they find it very difficult to hide their gayness. I have lesbian friends who just cannot feel comfortable in a dress at all, and honestly, many of them would look like a man in a dress anyway.
I do not know the reason why some gays can hide it and some cannot. We are a diverse bunch after all, and just like heterosexuals, we are all unique.
The problem has always been that gay people who can hide the fact they are gay, often have, just as I have and many of my friends have. There was a time it was out of necessity, when laws and even society acceptance made it difficult to be gay. I once worked at a job that I was well accepted until I made it known I was gay and then it only took about two weeks before I was fired. I was told it was for other reasons, which is usually the case, but I knew that it had to do with the fact I was gay.
As I mentioned earlier, in some countries, even to this very day, such as Iran for instance and other religious extremist nations, to be found out to be gay could mean the loss of your freedom, even the loss of your life. Vladimir Putin’s Russia has become a place that it is okay to beat up someone who is gay and gay people face being arrested. What the government of Russia really wants is for gay people to go back into the closet and hide, or else face persecution, which many are doing. However, some have chosen to stand up and be counted by protesting, which takes courage, but thanks to LGBT members like these or none of us would have any rights at all.
Coming out for gay people, wherever they are and whoever they are is very important if gay people are to be free and to eventually have equal protection under the law. Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected to office as a city supervisor in San Francisco, understood this well when he said,
“Every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family. You must tell your relatives. You must tell your friends if indeed they are your friends. You must tell the people you work with. You must tell the people in the stores you shop in. Once they realize that we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and all. And once you do, you will feel so much better”
Before the gay rights movement, it was easy to believe for many that we hardly existed. We were only a pariah of society, labeled as perverts to be harassed by police and arrested, simply for being in a bar frequented by our own kind. Then came a night at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village when a group of gays decided they were fed up with being harassed and corralled into patty wagons and taken to jail, just because they frequented a known gay bar. It was time to fight back and it was time to let the world know that we did exist and we had a right to exist.
Nowadays, every time a celebrity comes out, such as the recent coming out of football player Michael Sam and Robin Roberts of Good Morning America, there are those who find it offensive and they do not mind voicing their disgust in blogs and in comments. Some just simply cannot understand why gays feel the need to let everyone know he or she is gay, because it is just not important anymore, to them. I beg to differ. It is very important that gay people, especially celebrities, to let the world know they are gay because it is those who stand up to be counted as one of us, yet another gay person, that pushes our fight for equal rights forward. If it were not for those willing to stand up, we all would be back in the closet, living in fear, afraid to lose our jobs, our freedom, even our lives.
Perhaps the day will come when it will no longer be important that someone like Michael Sam or Robin Roberts to come out and let the world know he or she is gay. However, as long as gay people in every part of this nation and in this world cannot live free and equal the same as heterosexuals do, then it will be of the utmost importance that every gay person who is willing and who can, to stand up and be counted.
For those LGBT members who live in countries where it is still dangerous to come out, it is understandable they stay in hiding. Still, there will be those who are courageous, who will give up their freedom, and their lives to take that stand in those nations. Let it also be known, it is because of individuals like them, who follow in the footsteps of the many courageous gay men and women before them, we gays can thank for all our freedom. Those who stood up against the bigotry and hatred that kept them down and afraid, hiding in the shadows, so that gay people now and in the future can walk free and proud, with a future full of hope, and a life without fear. Silence = Death.