Monday, September 16, 2013

Being Out. Being Alive. Being

So, one day last week I posted that Michael Jordan’s daughter, Jasmine, had come out as gay. I’ve done lots of posts about people coming out, people in all walks of life. I’m a firm believer that everyone should come out — at the time of their choosing, I’ll say, because I don’t want to out anyone myself — because it shows the world who we are; that we are all kinds of people, black, white, Asian, tall short thin fat, male female, Christians, Muslim, Catholic, conservative, liberal. It shows the world that we are no different that straight people except in that one area of whom we love.

But it does make a difference when we come out.

Now, I have set my blogger posts to post on my Facebook page as well, so when the story about Jasmine Jordan came up, one Facebook friend responded thusly:
“Bob,who really cares... as long as she's a good person gay or straight. I used to like it when personal things was [sic] personal.”
Well that is true, of course, but since people seem to like to demonize what they don’t know, I think that staying closeted adds to that demonization; it makes it seem like the closeted gay person feels some sort of shame at being gay, and they might, but it isn’t shameful, it’s who you are. It’s like having blue eyes and brown hair; it’s part of a person, and shouldn’t be used to make anyone feel shame.

I responded to that friend:
“I think people coming out are important. Hiding is bad, it only sends a message that there is something to be ashamed of, and that's never good.”
And he said:
“Bob, do straight people tell other people they are straight? It's important when rights are denied... but in everyday conversation... it need not be part of the conversation. This world is not either all gay or straight.”
Well, the world isn’t all gay or straight, it’s also everything in between, but hiding a part of who you are is never good. And hiding it consists of not saying who you are, or who you love. And who you are is a part of the conversation, unless you edit yourself to keep that part a secret, to keep that part in the closet.

When I first moved to South Carolina I was worried about being gay in a Bible-belted Red State, so I kinda opened the closet door and thought about putting one foot back in. At my first job interview here, though, I told my boss I was gay because he asked what brought me to Camden, and I said my partner had gotten a job here. Of course, my boss isn’t from here either, so I think that may have had something to do with his having a So what, who cares attitude about it.

But his response made me rethink that whole hiding thing again, and so I did come out to my new co-workers because, well, I didn’t want to hide again. I didn’t want to say ‘I’ instead of ‘We’ in case someone were to ask who the other half of ‘We’ might be, so I simply said, ‘Carlos and I…’

And I was surprised that not one person, not one person ever in the seven years we’ve lived here, has ever said a negative thing, or reacted in a negative way, or tried to distance themselves from me because I was gay.

It was a good feeling, but I realized one thing, as I said to that Facebook friend:
“Straight people don't have to tell people they're straight. Not coming out is the same as staying in the closet. I don't like it and will always applaud those who come out.”
And I will continue to recognize those gay folks that step up and step out, and offer them a copy of the Gay Agenda and the Official Coming Out Toaster Oven. I think it’s important, and I think it’s important that we continue to do it, everywhere we go. Coming out is not a one-time deal; you come out to friends, then maybe to family; then to co-workers and maybe neighbors.

But we also come out to servers in restaurants when we celebrate our anniversary and toast one another with champagne. Last year, we went to a new place for dinner on our anniversary and ordered some champagne, and when the waitress asked what we were celebrating we said it was our twelfth anniversary. She beamed and said ‘Congratulations’ and then gave us the champagne and dessert on the house.

That was nice, a little surprise, which I’m sure they give to every couple, straight or gay, who celebrates an anniversary.

But Carlos and I come out at grocery stores, too, by shopping together as a couple. We came out as a couple when we bought our house and at the furniture store when we bought a new bed. We came out buying a new car; we come out every time we travel, when we rent a car, or a hotel room. We came out when Carlos was hospitalized with appendicitis several years ago, and we came out when Carlos took me to the doctor when I had shingles a while back.

It’s a process, it is ongoing, and it is worth it. And every one of us who does it, deserves to be recognized for it.

Sure, maybe straight people don’t have to come out as straight, but that’s because we’re sort of ‘expected’ to be straight, and when we’re not, we have to let people know. We let them know so that they can see that it’s really no big deal.

I’m gay.


SEAN (The Jeep Guy) said...

Your paragraph says it all. We're not always coming out but we do usually have to say we're not straight.

Unless a person is advertising their religion (like wearing a cross or star of david, how do you know what religion, if any, they observe ? You either ask or they tell.

the dogs' mother said...

You are a big deal, Bob. And Carlos too. And brave and all around good eggs.

Princess said...

Trying to maintain the "Straight Expectation" is so damn difficult and in my case lead to a lot of sadness, guilt, self loathing and depression. Accepting myself and my sexuality made life a lot easier and I became a much happier and more honest person... no more spending my energy on self denial and keeping up with false expectations...
I think re-enforcement of the "Straight Expectation" does nothing to assist our youth struggling with their sexuality and as often sighted here Bob on your blog leads to terrible abuse, bullying and in some cases suicide
I'm gay and "coming out" was the best thing I ever did for myself at a time when I'd come to grips with who I am.
I can't say that everyone was pleased with the news but... ultimately that was "their stuff" to work through... I'd spent enough time working through my own stuff...
Thank you for providing such a positive space for self expression...And your continued support and championing of the lgbt community everywhere...

We need more Bob's and Carlos's in the world...

Bob Slatten said...

We need more Princesses, too.
And, like I said, when any one of us comes out, it strengthens all of us.

Bob Slatten said...

A good egg, I like that!

Anonymous said...

That whole "Straight people don't have to tell you they're straight" statement is ludicrous. No you don't have to tell us because it's pushed at us from ALL angles..

anne marie in philly said...

I agree with truthspew. as a str8 person, I have never been asked, nor do I have to tell. it's assumed I am str8.

but the more men and women that come out, the "fear of the unknown" will be diminished.

I am proud to know gay and str8 people as my friends!

Biki Honko said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Biki Honko said...

Times are changing, slowly, but changing so that hopefully one fine day will dawn, where it doesnt matter what gender we are attracted to.