Coming Out with Anderson and Megan

Flags in San Francisco Gay Pride Parade 2012

San Francisco Gay Pride Parade 2012

Hey there. I’m Deb. This is my new blog at Babble Voices, and I’m a lesbian.

You may have known that if you’ve read me before, or if you noticed my bio note, or maybe my avatars read “gay.” Maybe your gaydar is excellent. Or over time if you read me again you might  figure it out when I use the word “we” to  refer to the LGBTQ community or speak of my undying love of ironic thumb rings, crème brûlée and a nice jacket. Some things are so gay.

So maybe it’s not necessary that I announce my gayness to you in my first Babble Voices post. But Monday was such a rich Coming Out news day (way to go, Anderson Cooper and Megan Rapinoe!) that I’m hoping someone will boldly come out every day. Just trying to do my part today.

Oddly, Anderson’s coming out announcement was met with some pushback from people thinking it was old news, or a somewhat unneeded proclamation. But I think it would be amazing if “Coming Out” were so frequent that it becomes a daily feature on the morning news shows, sort of like the weather report. “And now to you, Willard, for today’s Coming Out news.” First we’d hear world and national figures come out, then the station could cut to local reports. “Center Branch Librarian Ms. Thomas has announced that she happily identifies as bi, and Mr. Fink, who you’ve probably seen driving a large blue Chevy truck or at Barnes & Noble grabbing a coffee would like you to know: Totally gay, born that way!”

Until finally no reports are needed because we arrive at a new era, or our kids do, when coming out publicly doesn’t matter.

Right now, though, coming out matters. It matters a lot. So it’s a huge celebration that Anderson Cooper made the decision to formally come out by writing to Andrew Sullivan and that soccer Olympian Megan Rapinoe decided to come out as a lesbian to the public an interview published by Out.

Public statements like theirs matter in so many ways, even if the news doesn’t seem like, well, news. Before coming out publicly Anderson and Megan were in Glass Closets. They were out to people who knew them personally and had never hidden behind beards of any kind. But they also had not formally addressed the issue on their own terms for the public, leaving ambiguity and speculation to define part of their public lives. A Glass Closet  or a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell way of life might be a different kind of closet than the dark despair of absolute denial, but it’s a closet none-the-less.

It matters to come out, and it’s a tremendous act of courage against real risks that should be applauded whenever it happens. Visibility is saving lives and is the only way we can assure young queer people that it truly gets better. Loud is proud. Telling the truth about our lives and LGBTQ identities is intrinsically linked to the long journey of self acceptance, societal acceptance and equal rights. That’s not to say being out is easy, or even the right choice for every person in every setting. Sometimes personal privacy trumps, or anonymity, or one’s own timing.

The thing is, we have to come out because  people are assumed to be straight unless announcing otherwise. Not coming out might offer privacy and safety but it risks confusion, risks looking like you want to hide something you are ashamed of, and risks being thought to be lying to yourself or to others. We have to come out because we don’t exist if we don’t. Non-famous people know the rub of this dynamic very well too.  Because the truth is we don’t come out once and then rest in a nest of rainbow ribbons thereafter. Being queer means coming out again and again and again.

If you are straight, you can be a great help to this necessity by not criticizing or snarking about  someone for when they came out or didn’t, or when they stayed closeted for any reason. You can help by creating a world where coming out eventually isn’t necessary and until then is widely celebrated.

Megan Rapinoe is a powerhouse on the pitch, and her statements about her decision were just as powerful. She told Out:

“I feel like sports in general are still homophobic, in the sense that not a lot of people are out,” she says. “I feel everyone is really craving [for] people to come out. People want — they need – to see that there are people like me playing soccer for the good ol’ U.S. of A.”

Not that Rapinoe has been hiding anything; it’s just that no one ever asked her directly. “I think they were trying to be respectful and that it’s my job to say, ‘I’m gay.’ Which I am. For the record: I am gay,” she says.

Anderson went into a lot of depth explaining his previous decisions to retain privacy while also never hiding or denying frequent questions about his sexuality. He wrote:

Recently, however, I’ve begun to consider whether the unintended outcomes of maintaining my privacy outweigh personal and professional principle. It’s become clear to me that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long, I have given some the mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something – something that makes me uncomfortable, ashamed or even afraid. This is distressing because it is simply not true.

I’ve also been reminded recently that while as a society we are moving toward greater inclusion and equality for all people, the tide of history only advances when people make themselves fully visible. There continue to be far too many incidences of bullying of young people, as well as discrimination and violence against people of all ages, based on their sexual orientation, and I believe there is value in making clear where I stand.

The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.

Anderson did a tremendous job of describing one of the huge privileges offered to heterosexuals in a hetero-normative world. It’s a privilege to remain private and non-political, to not have to come out again and again, and that’s a  privilege that gay people don’t yet have.

I hope both Anderson and Megan are celebrating their decisions because they most assuredly are inspiring others to join them outside stifling closets, glass and otherwise. That’s how speaking your truth works, fueling some wildly exponential iterative math. I can’t wait to see who comes out next, and I’m going to keep hoping we need that daily feature for all of the Coming Out news, until the day it’s obsolete. Here’s my forecast: Coming Out means it truly does get better. Nothing but blue skies from now on.

 

 

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