Yesterday the internet blew up over ignorant comments made by an ignorant man who happens to be on a tv show and is therefore deemed worthy of having his opinions amplified. Some argue that we should simply ignore his comments. I disagree. Responding to hatred with silence is not the appropriate path in a world where violence against the LGBT community, LGBT teen suicide and LGBT teen homelessness are horrifically run of the mill. I don’t believe we are yet at the place where we can relax into a position of “so and so’s an idiot so why are we paying attention.” We’re paying attention because a lot of people still believe such things, and a lot of people act on them. Every time an idiot speaks, we must speak back.
Olympic champion Brian Boitano was speaking back. Although he probably didn’t plan his coming out as a response to the hatred of the day, I couldn’t help but notice that it was a response of sorts. And I couldn’t help but notice that many on my FB and Twitter feeds met his coming out with a resounding, “Well duh!” Indeed, it was hard not to comment that his coming out was a little bit…well…unnecessary. I mean, look at him. He’s gay. Really gay. Gaygitty gay! Astronauts doing a space walk can see that he’s gay. He’s a figure skater for god’s sake! Aren’t they allllllll gay?????????
It’s unlikely anyone dropped their mimosa in shock.
I’ll admit, it was hard to resist the joke. And considering how many people are out these days ~ one has a difficult time even keeping up on the newly out ~ it’s easy to roll our eyes, especially when some of the more flamboyant members of our tribe publicly state who they are for the first time. But resist I did. And perhaps we should all try to resist.
I grew up in the 70s and 80s. We were not without our gay stars. And some of those stars were über-gay. Paul Lynde comes to mind. Georges Boy and Michael. Elton John, who cracked open his closet door by proclaiming his bisexuality, a huge step back then. Liberace. Martina Navratilova. Freddie Mercury fronted a band called Queen. Rudolph Nureyev. The Village People! I was inexplicably drawn to “The Golden Girls,” a show about four straight, older women. It wasn’t until years later that I understood that the words they spoke were the words of a gay man. My attraction to the show wasn’t quite as inexplicable as I thought. I sensed something there, a connection, an understanding, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. No one said it. It was understood to be unspeakable, at least in public. Understood to be inappropriate for children and polite conversation. They were all right there, hiding in plain sight. And they were driving me crazy. I knew what I was looking at, but I always assumed I was wrong. No one that famous could possibly be what I was thinking they were. No one on tv could possibly be what I could plainly see they were. No successful person ~ no person at all ~ could possibly be like me. I didn’t exist. It was all very hidden. Secretive. Shameful.
This is why I’m thrilled anytime someone says it. Because when I heard Harvey Fierstein say it, it changed my life. Saying it removes the mystery. Ends the silence. Takes the aloneness away. Chips away at the first thing all gay people are taught, long before we consciously know who we are or what we’re learning ~ before we even have words for it ~ we learn shame. Speaking the truth chips away at the shame. May we all stand up and speak until gay shame is extinct. Let there one day be a generation gap as wide as the ocean. May our children look at us with utter confusion that we had to overcome something ~ something they simply never experienced. May they have to understand our journey and our fight by reading about shame in the history books.
Yesterday, referring to gay people, that Duck Dynasty gentleman was also quoted as saying:
“They’re full of murder, envy, strife, hatred. They are insolent, arrogant, God-haters. They are heartless, they are faithless, they are senseless, they are ruthless. They invent ways of doing evil.”
A lot of “they”s in those sentiments. A lot of otherness. Lots of distance between people. Our silence allows that ~ allows us to be other ~ allows us to be defined by those who hate us. Our silence allows those words to be the final word. And then Brian Boitano comes out of the closet and suddenly those words make slightly less sense. And then other people in the public eye come out of the closet and those words make even less sense. And then our neighbors, our coworkers, our family members, our grocery store clerks, ourselves ~ all come out of the closet ~ and those words make no sense whatsoever.
So I will refrain from the “he’s gayer than a lube sale at Barneys” jokes. When we come out of the closet, I will stand up and cheer. Every time. Until we are equal. In every state. In every country. Until our children stop being thrown out of their homes for simply being. Until there is no such thing as violence against us. Until we know nothing of shame.
Every voice is a welcome voice. Congrats Brian!!!