Just recently, I met someone who was telling me it was too hard to tell her fifteen year old daughter she was gay, so she was just ‘letting her daughter get to know her partner first’ – yes, well, that’ll help the daughter to know that honesty and being up-front is valuable in her life. I met someone else who told me ‘everyone knows’ she’s gay, except her Great-Gran. Great-Gran would be delighted to know she doesn’t count as ‘everyone’, I’m sure. And, of course, we all know those who are successful in their careers and doing really well who don’t want to rock any boats …
Because actually, I do want to rock some boats. I do want to say – stop it! Get over yourselves! Take some responsibility and get on with it.
I know a brilliant 19-year-old who is out at college and living with her girlfriend and whose dad says part of her ease with her sexuality is to do with her knowing Shelley and I. (Which means, of course, that part of her ease with her sexuality is because we were out and her parents were out about us, and NONE OF US, even when she was much younger, behaved as if this whole gay thing is a problem. Which now enables her to live her own life on her own terms, making a difference in other people’s lives.)
Because it isn’t actually a problem for most of us in (most of) the West at this end of the 21st century, not a real problem, if we don’t buy into the secrecy and the lying and hiding and the untruths. (And yes, I do think omission is the same as commission.)
There are though, many places where it really is hard to be gay. Impossible. Illegal. Punishable by death.
And I am sick of making it better for other people. Tired of my actions and my honesty and my openness slowly but surely making it safer for other people to come out. It wasn’t easy for me and it wasn’t easy for anyone else I know, there are still times on a regular basis when it still isn’t easy, so why the hell do those of you who aren’t out get to wait until we’ve fixed it all for you?
I am really tired of my straight friends who’ve had one or two gay experiences not being out about them. (And enormously proud of my straight friend who has happily told her teenage daughters about her women lovers from the past.)
Mostly, I am tired of having to carry the burden* so that other people will have it better later on. Those other people who don’t have the courage to step up now.
No, it isn’t easy. But if we don’t, who will? If we don’t all take responsibility to make it better here, wherever we are in the relatively lucky West, then how are we ever going to make things better for our friends in those places where simply loving who you love is illegal/immoral/wicked?
We were born here by mere chance, we have the opportunity to make things better by choice.
So … here’s a thing :
if ‘everyone’ but your mother, father, sister, nana, grandad, boss, daughter, son, cousin, aunty, uncle, preacher, rabbi, imam, sensei, leader, teacher – you fill in the gap – if ‘everyone’ BUT them knows you’re out … then you’re not out. (And what on earth did they do to not deserve your honesty?)
* and I do it in a truly tiny way, I know this, there are so very many people working far harder to make things better day in day out than I am
Wonderful Stella!! I read….
grazie Paola, x
Hear, hear! I totally agree with you. Visibility and honesty are key to any change and it has to be made by lots and lots of people. My partner and I are always open about who we are, not in a big activist way but just…you know, we are shopping for a bed, we need to find something we both like and we can’t go to the lesbian bed showroom so we have to be honest to get we want. And most of the time no one misses a beat about it. Agreed, Stella.
“and we can’t go to the lesbian bed showroom so we have to be honest to get we want”
heh, made me laugh out loud. and was exactly our situation in Peter Jones last year. nothing like quietly outing yourselves in Sloane Square dahling … x
I think sometimes we forget how easy we have it in the UK. I have friends in Serbia who can’t even have a Pride march without groups of neo-nazis trying (very hard) to kill them.
However (because everyone else is agreeing so let’s mix it up a bit) being out in the UK does not come without ‘peril’. Sure, you might not get kicked to death (although, actually, two gay men did in 2009 – one of them an off duty police man), but you may get iffy services.
Try and get help if you are gay and experiencing domestic violence. Want a refuge space? Good luck finding one. That’s if you haven’t already been dismised by the Police or arrested because they can’t figure out who the “butch” is. (Margaret Desmond is a case in fact. Tried to get help. Ended up being strangled by her gf)
Job interviews. I know someone who refused a guy a job because he looked too camp and they didn’t want to add them to a mostly male dept. I am trying to re-educate that dimwit but you can’t turn a piece of lego into an iPhone.
If your family are strict Islamics then coming out to them could mean being shunned completely or worse – an honour killing. And that is in the UK.
Add to this many more instances of why coming out and fighting the good fight for an entire nation may make you an unsung martyr who gets a hella lot of suffering ahead.
For some people it’s easy to say and hard to do.
Anyway. Some of my (pre-first cup of morning tea) thoughts.
I agree EAG that while things are much better than in many ways than say 20 or even just 10 years ago, it’s by no means ‘fixed’ here i the UK (or in many other first world countries). Which is why I think it’s our duty to keep on making it better here, to be out even when it’s difficult, to be honest. That way we make it better for everyone. I too have had difficult times due to being out, but then any minority gets a hard time when the majority feel threatened, and the only way we stop hate crime, bullying etc etc, is to stand up to it – but I’d just like ALL of us to stand up to it, not just those of us who’ve been doing so for quite some time now!
I was at IDAHO a couple of years back and this guy got on stage and spoke about Homophobia. He asked us all to cross our arms. He then told us to do it the other way, leading with the other arm. Some of us could do it quickly; for others it took a few goes. He then said that change isn’t easy for everyone – it takes time and a few goes before we all get it right.
I am a firm believer in allowing the world to right itself because…it just seems to do that in my experience. Look at Iris Robinson who compared us all to paedos. Don’t wish her ill will, but – you give it out and eventually it comes back to poke you in the eye.
Obvi, this doesn’t diminish the stand that people take (yourself included) and the crap they all go through from Joe Bloggs to Ellen Degeneres.
But this is just my opinion. I felt compelled to type something as everyone was agreeing 🙂
you don’t like agreement, EAG???!!!
Rarely are new view points introduced when everyone agrees.
P.S. Some of my best friends have been known to agree at times. I don’t hold it against them.
I don’t know, I think agreement can lead to conference, to confluence, to building. accept and build/yes and – the basic tenets of improvisation are, for me, also ideal tenets to live by. I find conflict – merely for its own sake – is rarely interesting.
Then we get to agree to disagree. Pretty nifty how that works 🙂
I understand the frustration, but I don’t think it’s for you to make other people’s decisions for them in this area. Secrecy is not ideal, but other people may have their reasons so let’s not judge them.
Sarah, I have never outed another person, so you’re wrong to suggest I’ve made other people’s decisions for them. However (along with many others) I am tired of being in the advance guard for LGBT action and acceptance, as I have been for almost 30 years, having been out and dealt with all the flack that’s brought, so that other people, coming out much later, when things are much easier for them, can reap the benefits they didn’t have the courage to work for in the first place. There are still many many people in the world for whom coming out is a matter of ACTUAL life or death, in cases where it’s ‘merely’ about fear of acceptance or how a family might feel or what might happen at work, then I think the sooner we all took up the challenge and became a little (or a lot) braver, then the better it would be for everyone else. It’s not about doing it for yourself any more, as we see our brothers and sisters in Iran (for example, and there are plenty of other places where the same is happening) being persecuted and condemned for their sexuality, then the excuses of those still not out in the far more privileged west start to sound more than a little hollow. I’m not for a moment suggesting it’s easy or simple, it wasn’t for me and it continues to be difficult on occasion, there is still plenty of abuse and nastiness out there – but it’s not about the individual, it’s about trying to make our societies better for ALL of us. And that needs ALL of us engaged in the struggle.