Bravery is in the eye of the beholder


Yesterday, a respected and influential Facebook acquaintance wrote a post expressing his frustration with gays who wait to come out until they can make a profit off of it.

I read it and my heart immediately prompted this response which I posted, despite it being perceived as encroachment:

I think we should try to be kind to everyone no matter what their journey and labor to create a community that respects and welcomes everyone who eventually finds and embraces her/his authentic self.

My friend replied that perhaps I had somewhat missed his point and restated his position that he was welcoming to anyone who came out but against the notion of someone coming out just to profit off of it.

I couldn’t, however, let it go. I don’t believe I missed his point all that much. Or maybe I have an over-inflated sense of importance about my own opinion. Which, conveniently, is as follows:

In general, we Americans–hetero and homo–miss the boat on what makes a hero, don’t we?

I don’t know why we mourn Paul Walker more than we do the man who lost his life in the same crash or more than we do all the people around the world who died of hunger that very same day.

I don’t know why we gossip about and chide celebrities for staying in the closet but then lambast them once they do.

I don’t know why we celebrate Tom Daley’s courage out of one side of our mouths and then from the other side, question his explanation and trash the character of the man he’s in a relationship with.

I don’t know why celebrities think that in a world of pretend that is their career they can’t publicly live an authentic life. But I’m more befuddled about why a public can’t get past an actor’s sexuality in a pretend movie or show or while appreciating her/his art and why that has so much power over that celebrity.

I don’t know why elected officials hide personal convictions about human rights–say, about the rights of the women they’re married to or the children they know are gay– because of the fear of the people who elected them. That is, until it becomes more societally acceptable slash they think they can still get re-elected.

I don’t know why people so vigorously and defiantly hide their sexuality when generally they’re the last to know. And MOREso: why we closet cases felt compelled to do so much damage–feigning heterosexuality while we voted against our own kind by electing (and re-electing) men like Reagan and Bush and Bush.

I’m glad we celebrate men like Lt. Choi and post photos of service women and men kissing their same-gender partner. But I don’t know why we don’t remember men like Alan Turing or Leonard Matlovich and why we didn’t fight like hell when Clinton enacted DADT or effected DOMA.

I don’t know why we didn’t fight harder during the AIDS crisis, why we aren’t rioting in the streets–not because there’s still not universal marriage equality–but because there’s still no cure, and why millions of us are still having unsafe sex and contracting HIV 30+ years later. And oh yeah, THE VERY LIVES OF OUR LESBIAN AND GAY AND TRANS SISTERS AND BROTHERS ARE ARE AT RISK IN PLACES LIKE RUSSIA AND UGANDA yet we still drink Coca Cola and will probably watch those Olympics.

I don’t know why we remember–yea laud–Ellen for coming out but we don’t know a single name of those brave, pissed-off trannies who fought like hell at Stonewall. I don’t know why Rob Portman waited so long to support his gay child and change his vote. Or Barack Obama to evolve.

And yet, regardless of their motivation, I for one am so glad they did!

Every woman and man who comes out as L or G or B or T–or as an ALLY of someone who is–is a hero, no matter how late they might do it.

Milk and Kramer were absolutely right, as heavy-handed as they were. It will take every one of us to come out for this society to truly take notice of us. At the end of the day, it’s a personal choice; we can agree on that. But we’re certainly more powerful as a whole when we finally do. And we’re a better country when we accept it, embrace it, and proclaim our solidarity.

But…

Bitterness is not only hurtful, it’s just not sexy. Compassion and solidarity are much more effective. Until we make it safe to come out in our own community and do so with kindness and respect, fear will simply reinforce all those closet doors that need to be busted down.

Don’t want to watch Ellen because you think she’s exploiting her sexuality, then by all means boycott her. I think the greater story is that although she was “late” to the party–let us not forget it was her party–her celebrity has changed thousands–if not millions of hearts and minds (and more than a few corporations) about being gay. [Of course are those corporations truly inclusive or just exploiting us because it’s now “ok” to be out for gay rights? But that’s a different blog.]

I wish we as a gay community could change our reputation as one of vapid sheep obsessed with fashion and body image (even as I write this on an elliptical) and material possessions and sex into one known for celebrating its history and culture. For fighting tooth-and-nail for the rights of anyone who’s suffering oppression. For attacking every instance of establishment and injustice and rooting out every single politician who is against equality of every citizen–no, human being!

Bravery comes in Many forms and is often a matter of perspective and the racing pulse of the beholder.

Perhaps the reason the high school boys have enough courage to attend their prom together is because some celebrity came out and nothing at all to do with why or when.

But that’s just me.

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7 thoughts on “Bravery is in the eye of the beholder

  1. FYI–Federal DOMA was passed under Clinton, not Bush. Not that both Bushes didn’t do enough of their own damage, but Clinton was not a friend of the LGBT community when he was president.

  2. At first I thought I was having a stroke and seeing sparkles everywhere, then I realized that was part of the background. Made me lol.

    Great post, though. 🙂

  3. Well….ya know I have more than a few thoughts on this one – espeially with you and I having such similar “raising”…. Just like faith, tolerance and love cannot be legislated. Faith can only be won by bring a single person to his knees before his creator. Tolerance for our gay brothers and sisters is a similar INDIVIDUAL journey. While we need laws to protect them from the ignorant public, those laws will not change the hearts of individuals – those laws simply provide a means by which we can punish the offenders. We need the laws, but we need that proverbial grassroots effort as well.

    I am a hetero female who never really established an opinion pro or con about gay people in my life because I was never faced with it in my bubble. When it did come in to my bubble, a long term close friend (not you!) came out to me. He was living his real self publicly, but his work life was kept very separate and innocuous. We had a social situation that was putting me into his real world and I would be meeting his partner. I didn’t really have any time to form a thought – rather I put on my happy face and acted accordingly.

    In the post-processing, I had to figure out how I was gonna react/respond. Did this “coming out” change the person I knew? No, it changed ME. We had conversations about why he kept his orientation out of work, even tho he was living in LA where acceptance should be the norm. That was followed by a vicious need to embrace and protect him. I learned so much about myself during this time. It challenged my religious raising and I was able to answer the admonishments by saying “aren’t we supposed to love first?”

    The point of my long dicertation is this: whether your are gay or not, each of us has an individual journey, which is exactly the point of your blog (if I read it correctly)….. My buddy Jeff created a mother-hen reaction in me that enabled me to grab you and keep on loving you. ….. dragging you out for pizza …. enabling me to go to that “parents meeting” and anser the question “what do I do if I see him in Walmart?” (yes, that was a real question!!). V and I both turned around like we were ready to kill that person and growl “YOU SAY HI!!!”.

    (I didn’t even touch on my hubby’s approach…. as a handicapped person, he only closely identifies with people who have survived struggles…)

    Love you brother!!!

    • You hit it on the head:

      “Did this “coming out” change the person I knew? No, it changed ME.”

      Yes, that’s it.

      And, whether you know it or not, you and V helped save me.

      LOVE YOU SO MUCH, SISTER.

  4. Again, sharing that “similar raising” I now find the idea of “belief” interesting. 30+ years ago I attended a workshop led by a priest. The topic was religion/spiritual belief and homosexuality. So, the “old way” the “right way” the “only way” to believe was challenged. He asked this question to the group, “WHO told you that?” At first I thought God. Then I realized my mother, many Sunday School teachers, many preachers and that entire society of PEOPLE told me what to believe. After learning the honor to write/copy/interpret into English a la James the King was “won” by one of four men because he showed up to the job interview first. He is a man. Then he smartly closed his work by saying, “This is mine and you will burn in hell if you change it” and like Edith Ann sitting in her big chair and saying in her childlike voice, “and that’s the truth – tongue out, blbph blbph blbph!” So there! If that’s the truth, then so it is. It is almost as if you go to a booth and put in a quarter and the truth falls out on a card at the bottom. You then own it just as it is.
    Funny thing is, a few years/months later, enough of those life events have happened that ME has changed and I want to go back to that booth and make a plea. “May I exchange this ‘truth’ for a different one.” You learn part of the truth you bought said “NO EXCHANGES/NO ALTERATIONS.” If you want to pay $0.50, double the price, you can get one that says “Exchangeable any time,” you may. When the first truth was purchased you didn’t know there were any other kinds. It is like Southwest Airlines tickets – the cheapest can’t change but the most expensive can be changed anytime.
    I went back to see who told my mother the truth, those teachers and preachers and PEOPLE. The ones who taught these people who told me the truth were simply the MEN before them, and those before them, etc. The end of the story of “The Life of Pi” retold his story in a fascinating tale and also a simple explanation. When asked which story was true he replied, “which one do you like the best? You have to believe in something.” Many of us paid the price for the more interesting story.
    It takes bravery to pay that price and believe the different story than the one told by Edith Ann. It takes bravery to ponder, reconsider, wonder, question, search, wait, and develop. It is easy to just believe what the $0.25 card says and go on. It is challenging to have complications disturb that the original belief. Some souls just fit into that mold without a problem and have the pleasure of not having to be challenged.
    Interestingly, it is all just a story. .Everyone’s story is different in some way and yet the similar in others. It is a story that answers questions, gives us purpose, gives us direction, brings us together and tears us apart. It is just a story. They come from different cultures, different leaders and different countries. Sometimes it takes many years for one to settle the battle of their truth and it comes easily for others. Seek the truth.
    Love the snow!

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