Stonewall, the President, Jodie Foster, Why Coming Out is Our Duty & Why I’ve Been Tweeting “I’m Gay” Everyday

“Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall.”

A simple sentence.  Yet remarkably powerful.

Before the nation and before the world, my President, Barack Obama, in one single breath, recognized that LGBT history is American history.  He plucked the Stonewall Riots from the sole purview of gay studies programs at colleges and universities and placed it squarely in the path this country has cleared with blood, sweat, tears and perseverance in its quest to fulfill its original promise:  liberty and freedom for all.  A path that bears the footprints of some of our greatest Americans.

Before the nation and before the world, I heard in my President’s words and saw in his eyes that I am an American first ~ that I am here ~ that I am equal ~ and that I deserve my shot at the American dream ~ with all its rights and responsibilities ~ on the exact same footing as my straight brother.  I heard that I, too, am a part of the fabric of this country.

“I am gay.”

Another simple sentence.  Yet still, today, in 2013, remarkably powerful.

Our silence is the only arrow in the quiver of those who oppose our equality.  That’s it.  That’s all they have.  Our silence allows those who would do us harm to define us.  To dictate the definitions and parameters of our lives.  Our silence replaces dialogue with monologue.

This is why it is our duty, our responsibility, to come out of the closet if we can do so in a safe environment.  We must say it.  It is the duty of every single gay American, be they a private person or someone whose life has put them in front of those harsh, unrelenting paparazzi bulbs.  We must say it for the teenagers who fear being thrown out of their homes because “I am gay.”  We must say it for their parents, who believe what they were taught from that hateful monologue.  We must say it for the kids contemplating suicide because “I am gay.”  We must say it for every gay person who lives in one of the 29 states where it is still perfectly legal to fire or evict them simply because “I am gay.”  We must say it for everyone who fears for their physical safety because “I am gay.”

We must say it.

Each and every one of us.

Until we can no longer be perceived as other.  Until it is clear that we are in every workplace, in every family, in every institution, in every house of worship ~ quite simply, that we are everywhere.  Until there is no prejudice left.  Until we have full equality in law, thought, understanding and social custom.  Until the bashings cease.  Until the lies evaporate.  Until “I am gay” holds no power.  Until coming out is no longer considered deeply personal.  Until it is no more a moment in our or our family’s lives than getting that first bike or losing a tooth.  Until the fear of us ~ and within us ~ becomes a relic of the past.  Until “I am gay” becomes as boring as it actually is.

We must say it.

“I am gay.”

And perhaps coming out shouldn’t be political.  And perhaps coming out shouldn’t be our responsibility; our duty.  But it is.  Whether we like it or not, coming out is activism and likely the most political thing we can do.  And it will continue to be so until every little gay boy can tell the object of his crush how he feels and fear only rejection, not getting the shit kicked out of him on the playground.  Until every little gay girl can hang posters of her Hollywood crush over her bed without fear of being thrown out of her house.

We must say it.

“I am gay.”

The lies told about us simply can not bear the weight of truth.  They scatter like cockroaches in a sudden kitchen light when confronted with the reality of our lives.  They survive only in the darkness of our silence.

I was born into that silence.  A silence filled to bursting with untruths.  With inaccuracies.  I was alone.  Alone in the world.  Alone in my own home, within my own family.  A perfect storm of misinformation.  A breeding ground for hate.  And, of course, shame ~ hate turned inward.

Silence is a skilled teacher.  And as a kid, I, like so many other LGBT kids, was an exceptional learner.  I learned very early and very quickly that this thing that I knew I had inside me, this gayness, was horrific.  Vile.  Wrong.  An embarrassment.  A disease.  A defect within me that should never be mentioned.  Yet I knew that it was as much a part of me as my being left-handed or having black hair.

It was inexorably me.  It was undebatably poisonous.

“I am gay.”

Powerful.  Shameful.

Our silence is a fill-in-the-blank gone horribly awry.  A carnival mirror Mad Libs that replaces laughter with tears, joy with desperation, happiness with misery.  The blank in my life where I longed for dating, companionship, sex and marriage was filled in with fear and lonliness.  And frequently, with thoughts of suicide.

I knew ~ knew! ~ that in order to survive as I was, I would have to live a double life.  A dirty life.  A life my family could ever know about.  Or maybe a life without them.  A life devoid of meaningful relationships and connections.  I knew ~ knew! ~ from everything I didn’t see on the news, on tv, in magazines, in movies, in books ~ that I would pay dearly for the simple fact of who I was.  A heavy weight for the heart of a child.  And for someone like me, who knew deep down that he wanted to be married, it was a nightmare.  I knew that stepping on the glass at my wedding, a Jewish tradition I was so utterly drawn to, probably because as a kid the idea of breaking something without reprisal seemed cool, was never to be.  I was gay.  And absence of positive voices that surrounded my being gay hurricaned with all the things I could never be and all the things I would never do ~ with a world that I would never be a part of.  That silence held nothing but limitations ~ promised nothing but torment.

I was eight.

“I am gay.”

We must say it until it is no longer powerful.

Witness Jodie Foster’s speech at the Golden Globes, which sent my Twitter and Facebook feeds into a frenzy of conflicting opinions, endless speculation and passionate debate followed by days and days of blog posts and articles in the gay blogosphere.  Each one offering a different perspective.  Each one dissecting the timing of her coming out, her tone, right down to the words she used and, equally important, the words she chose not to use.  Each one shining a light through a different facet of her speech.  A kaleidoscope of opinions.

I couldn’t help but notice that the single thread, the single common denominator that ran through our reactions was that we all had a reaction.  No matter how we felt about Jodie Foster’s speech, we all felt about Jodie Foster’s speech.  Viscerally.  Because coming. out. matters!  It shouldn’t.  But it does.  Because being gay shouldn’t be a big deal.  But it is.  And until we reach that glorious day when it simply doesn’t matter, we must say it.

Imagine our world had Harvey Milk not said it.  Barney Frank.  Harvey Fierstein.  Edith Windsor.  Christine Quinn.  Tammy Baldwin.  Dan Savage.  Dan Choi.  Tony Kushner.  Michelangelo Signorile.  Del Martin.  Phyllis Lyon.  Harry Hay.  Frank Kameny.  Rita Mae Brown.  Melissa Etheridge.  Ellen DeGeneres.  Rosie O’Donnell.  k.d. lang.  Martina Navratilova.  Orlando Cruz.  Esera Tuaolo.  Wade Davis.  Richard Blanco.  And on and on.  Where would we have looked to see what we can achieve?  Where could we have looked that might have helped us question all that we had learned?  But it is not enough.  Our power will not be known until we have all spoken in one voice.

“I am gay.”

We have achieved so much in recent years.  Yet we still have so very far to go.  And now, in this moment, it is clear that each one of our voices is needed.  Each one of our personal voices ~ be they private or public ~ is needed.  This is an all hands on deck moment.  We can quicken the journey towards equality by telling our families, our co-workers, our friends, our society ~ “We are here.  And your beliefs about us are the factual equivalent of believing that the earth is flat.”

We must say it.

“I am gay.”

I’ve been tweeting it everyday since the first of the year.  My friends have been making fun of me ~ my coming out of the closet is the height of redundancy.  Indeed, it is boring.  Which is exactly my point.  Boring is as it should be.  I tweet it for those who feel unsafe, unsure, unwanted.  I tweet it that they might see it and begin to begin to know that they are not alone ~ that we are everywhere.  That they can be anything they want to be and that all they have been taught about who they are is a lie.  I tweet it with the hope that one day it will be boring for everyone, gay and straight.

Already today, with his magnificent words still lighting up hearts and souls across the country with the warm glow of inclusion, the President has begun to walk back his words of equality.  Jay Carney, the White House Press Secretary, stated that it is the President’s belief that marriage equality is ”an issue that should be addressed by the states.”  We still have work to do.  We can begin to do that work everyday, in our own lives.

“I am gay.”

Say it with me.

I’m gay.  #GayADay.  Tweet it.  Retweet it.

We can make it boring together.  We can take away its power.  We can rid ourselves of the notion that being gay is somehow private and that the decision to come out ~ to our family, our friends and, if we’re famous, to people we don’t know ~ is personal.  We can all do that work together.  Who knows, maybe Jodie Foster will join us!  You don’t even have to be gay.  It’s just a little click.  You won’t feel a thing.

“I am gay.”

Say it.

Posted on Jan 22, 2013 by Ian In: All, Current Events/Pop Culture/Politics, Featured Posts, Inside Voice
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