Today, 11th October, is National Coming Out Day in many countries round the world (including Australia, Canada, Croatia, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America), so in the spirit of the day I shall come right out and say it.
Which I know comes as no surprise to pretty much anyone who knows me, but there are a couple of serious points about this.
- Whilst it is fairly safe to be gay in most of the UK (there are still a disturbingly high number of attacks on people purely for being gay even in London, and there are many parts of the country where it would be foolhardy in the extreme for two men to walk along simply holding hands), there are many countries round the world where, even in the 21st century, homosexuality is not only illegal but punishable by death, often coming after lengthy sessions of torture.
- Coming Out as gay (or lesbian or bisexual or transgender or…) is not a once-only step. It is something which has to be done again and again and again. Every time you meet someone new, they generally assume you are straight. Which means there’s the whole issue of whether to come out to them or not, and when to do it, and how… the same thing time after time after time. So no, coming out isn’t a single step, it’s more of an ongoing process, an ongoing part of life.
I’m not going to regale you all with my coming out tales, of which there are many (as there are for every out GLBT person), I’ll save those for another day.
Instead, I’ll just ask you to pause for a moment and think – how would you react if someone came out to you? Be it a friend, or a son or daughter, or a work colleague, or even a parent.
- Would you be supportive of them?
- Would you make a huge drama out of it?
- Would you disown them and want nothing more to do with them? (A sickening number of irresponsible parents do just that each year, throwing their gay child literally out on to the streets when they find out; some go even further and assault or even kill their gay offspring. So much for being a loving caring parent).
One thing I would ask, nay beg, of you is this.
DON’T ask them “Are you sure?” or “Is it just a phase you are going through?”.
Don’t. Just don’t.
If they are coming out to you, it’s because they trust you and, especially if they are not out to many (or even any) other people, it can be a major thing for them. Don’t ruin it all by doubting them. Believe me, we have asked ourselves that exact same question over and over and over again more times than any human being should ever have to do.
Be there for them. Realise that they are still exactly the same person as they were yesterday!
And don’t go getting all weird and assuming that it means they must fancy you if they are the same sex as you – contrary to popular myth gay people do NOT automatically fancy every other member of the same sex! We are just as fussy, picky, choosy, discerning in that respect as heterosexuals are.
Yes, it may be a big thing for you to hear, you may need some time to get to grips with it all, and you may not ever fully understand it. But you know what? However much of a ‘big thing’ it is for you when your friend comes out, it is an order of magnitude larger for them!
So please, if someone comes out to you, be it today or any other day of the year, just remember that no matter how hard it is for you, it is even harder for them; be supportive, don’t question them, recognise that they are the same person they were yesterday.
Ah yes, the big question, especially in the UK at the moment as there are consultations regarding proposals to equalise marriage for all, not just for those whose partner is of the opposite sex.
Yes, there are consultations about removing the discriminatory nature of marriage and about actually giving the same rights to people regardless of their sexuality.
Now, equal rights being rights which apply equally to all is a pretty simple and straightforward concept. Heck, it’s a logical step – equality is only equality if it applies equally to all.
However, there are a minority who are hell-bent on maintaining discrimination based purely upon the genders involved in a partnership.
Now, I should point out that despite claims from a small minority who oppose equality, it is quite wrong to claim that Civil Partnerships are equal to marriage. For a start, if they were then why call them different things? If they are truly equal, why not allow gays to get Married and straights to get Civilly Partnered? The two are not the same, which is discussed in much greater depth in the two excellent articles Countering The “Civil Partnerships Are Enough” Argument and The Differences Between Civil Partnerships and Marriage. They are different things.
And it’s not enough to say “Yes, but they give pretty much the same end result so why worry?” as some do – that is the same as telling Rosa Parks that she should have been happy to remain forced to sit at the back of the bus because, well, she’ll get to the same place anyway so why does it matter?
As for the claim that we should stick with traditional marriage as defined in the bible?
OK, which particular traditional biblical marriage do they mean, exactly? The one that Solomon had with his 700 wives and 300 concubines, perhaps? Do they intend to keep the requirement that a marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin and f the wife is not a virgin then she shall be executed? Will they still insist that if a married man dies without children, his brother shall marry the widow?
The point being, marriage today is a far cry from ‘biblical’ marriage.
And even if it were not, biblical definitions of marriage are irrelevant in a modern society comprising peoples of many different faiths and none all living in the same society.
Look, if your faith bans you from watching Dr Who on a Sunday, then you can’t watch Dr Who on a Sunday – however you can not stop me from watching Dr Who on a Sunday (just as I can’t force you to watch it).
Likewise if your faith bans same sex marriage then you can’t marry someone of the same sex; but that doe snot give you the right to stop me from marrying a consenting adult of the same sex as me.
All I, or any other LGBT person is asking for, is to be treated equally. Nothing more, nothing less. It really is that simple.
Equal rights for all.
It’s a pretty basic concept, yet one which too many still refuse to accept. And until they do, we really can’t consider ourselves to be a civilised society.
For those opposed to gay marriage (or, to give it its correct legal name, marriage), never fear; when (and I do mean when not if) marriage is equalised for LGBTs and straights alike, you are not going to be forced to marry someone of the same sex. Your own marriage will be completely unaffected. You’ll be fine. I promise.
Not talking about Pride parades etc, just the notion of being proud.
Am I proud to be gay?
Well, no. No more than I’m not proud of having 2 legs or brown hair or being a male or any of the myriad other aspects which make up me and over which I have o control.
However, I sure as hell am not ashamed or embarrassed to be gay either, and that’s the important thing. Neither should anyone else be.
I long for the day when a person’s sexuality is as irrelevant as their height, eye colour, hair colour etc (although given that people, especially at school, get bullied simply for having red hair, that’s perhaps not a good sign for us as a society just yet 🙁 )
But until then, my name is Keith, and I am gay.
Happy National Coming Out Day.