Yesterday, Oct. 11, was National Coming Out Day. I made this image in honor of the event:
Then, on Facebook, I posted this:
I really do believe in the importance of people coming out as LGBTQI allies. If queer and questioning folks who are afraid to come out know that they are surrounded by people who will love and support them and will try to keep them safe, they are far more likely to come out, and stay out. I say this not only as a queer myself #smashALLtheclosets but as a queer who, out of fear, stayed closeted for decades.
Dudes, I knew I was gay. I knew it when I was 11 years old. I knew it, knew it without a doubt, and I believed I had to hide it from everyone, and I spent 20 years trying to make myself straight. I spent 20 years feeling like a total fake, 20 years feeling miserable and sad and alone. I can’t tell you how lonely it was, all those years I spent sitting in that dark lonely closet.
This is the thing that I think is hard for people to understand. If you have this huge secret that you’re trying to hold on to, you can’t afford to let anyone get close to you because there’s this whole part of you that you have to cordon off and protect. This isn’t just about romantic relationships–you can’t have close friends, either, because what if they find out? And your friends, no matter how awesome they are, no matter how close you feel with them, will never never really understand you because you have to keep this piece of you, this really fucking important piece of you, buried deep inside.
Anyway, here’s something awesome that happened for National Coming Out Day: All of my immediate family members changed their Facebook profile pictures to this:
My entire immediate family. My mom and my sisters. They all, independently, without me asking them to, changed their photo to an LGBTQI Ally badge. Because they’re awesome. And because they love and support me.
I’m critical of the well known “It Gets Better” video campaign, for lots of reasons. (1. It presents a white, middle class, upwardly mobile picture of queerness, which means it exercises its own form of oppression on nonwhite, non-middle class, rural queer and questioning youth. 2. It avoids pushing people to take responsibility to make it better, and treats bullying as if it’s just the gauntlet that we all have to run, instead of loudly proclaiming that bullies suck big-time and it’s the responsibility of anyone who’s willing and able to fight bullies with everything they have. 3. It paints a picture of queerness as ‘just like straightness except with different body parts,’ which I think is not only inaccurate but also problematic because it erases the experiences and needs of non-mainstream queers.) But my frustration with the “It Gets Better” campaign has nothing to do with the campaign’s primary message.
It does get better, you guys. It gets so much better. Like, better than I ever imagined it could get. When I was that scared, closeted kid, I truly believed I would just never be happy. I believed I would never fall in love–I believed I was incapable of love. I believed there was something broken inside me that made love, and joy, and happiness impossible for me.
And I was wrong. I’m not broken. Well, at least no more broken than we all are. And I think that no matter what happened after I came out, I would still have found myself capable of experiencing love, joy, and happiness. Even if my family had disowned me and my friends had walked away. But my family and friends have largely chosen to stay. And yesterday, my immediate family members, independently and without any prompting from me, chose to publicly show their support for me and for other LGBTQI folks. Which is pretty goddam awesome.
Thanks, guys. You’re pretty great and I love you a lot.
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