So that today’s date, October 11, 2010, doesn’t pass unnoticed, I wanted to pass along the word that it is National Coming Out Day, a day in which gays and lesbians are encouraged to take the leap of faith and share the most intimate fact of their existence with those around them. Today is especially important in light of recent events. Not only am I referring to the tragic suicide of Tyler Clementi at Rutgers University (and the other four suicides by gay teenagers in the last month), but also to the arrest of eight suspects in connection with a series of brutal, anti-gay hate crimes in New York City yesterday.
The reason that this day is so important is that it marks taking a stand based on faith and confidence as a human being about what one is and what one desires as a normal and natural expression. Although I am rarely surprised anymore with how insensitive and inhuman people can be, –primates often show a greater ability to protect and care for their own than humans—the following post by my friend Mike out in Denver, who was gracious enough to let me repost it, is a profile in courage.
I hope we all can be so courageous at least one time in our lives.
I can still see the look of shock and disgust on my mother’s face when I came out to her 28 years ago. I can still hear her husband’s ugly, hateful tirade the next day after she broke the news to him. Within the next few days after that, I was asked to leave the house I had grown up in. Today, I no longer speak to either of them. Coming out to my mother resulted in what was arguably the worst week of my life. I was not prepared to handle something that devastating; and, hidden inside of me, underneath the in-your-face bravado and fuck-you-world sarcasm and cynicism, there still lurks a terrified 18-year-old boy, quivering and crying on that old brown couch in the living room while the people he loved turned on him. That wound goes down deep, and most likely will never heal.
When I was a teenager, being gay was all I thought about. It was my first thought when I woke up in the morning, and my last thought before I fell asleep at night. I am not sure why or how I survived growing up gay. As we all know from recent headlines and Internet outreach, some kids don’t make it. That breaks my heart and sickens my stomach, but I can honestly see how it could get to that point. I certainly knew many, many dark moments when I was a kid, moments where I did not think I could go on another day. Somehow, some way, I got through it. The luck of the draw, perhaps, but here I am.
October 11th is National Coming Out Day. In spite of my experience with my mother, I do believe that coming out is an important thing for a gay person to do. For those few Facebook friends who don’t already know it or who haven’t figured it… out from all the obvious clues, I am gay. Always have been, always will be. It just happens to be one of the many fascinating things about me. On this day, I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to all the people in my life—past, present and future—to whom my queerness is not a big deal. I appreciate all of you, more than you know.
Thanks to your friend for allowing you to share his letter, Jimmy. Glad you posted this today.
Thanks Jimmy, this is the kind of thing I sort of overlook living in San Francisco. But the effects of hate and misunderstanding are never as far away as we’d like to think.
Recently, after the suicide here of a 43 year old man, the first question his overseas-parents asked was ‘was he gay?’ Of course, his dutiful siblings informed his parents that he most definitely was NOT. All this was a little surprising for his friends here in California, who’d been under the impression for years that his sexuality was a regular topic of conversation when he called home.
Staying hidden is deadly and it can cut us off from the support networks we need most during the most difficult times of our lives. The courage of Mike and people like him can set an example and build strength in a community that can be there for us all — both for gay youth coming out, and for our parents, who need help accepting their beautiful children.