Those in the know will recall that today’s National Coming Out Day, or NCOD for the AO (Acronym Oriented). Today, in the U.S. and abroad, LGBT people and their allies are encouraged to take another step out of the proverbial closet. It’s all relative, but the idea is, wherever you are in your journey on behalf of your own LGBT rights or those of others, you move a little further.
Visibility is a powerful first step, simply because poll after poll proves it: straight people support gay people’s rights more when they know us, personally. We know “we are everywhere.” But not everyone else does. The idea is that when they do — and when they see that LGBT folks are as wise and as foolish, as brave and as frightened, as hopeful and as as crestfallen as the straight folks in the majority — things will be a bit better. It’s the whole “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” line of reasoning.
I figure its title keeps this blog is plenty “out,” and since I’m fairly gender atypical (I’m writing this in boxer shorts, right now!), I personally don’t have to exert a lot of effort to be “out” as I go about my daily life. Or so I think, and then I’m reminded of the power of heteronormativity.
One morning, a few months back, I was in line at a café and the woman in line in front of me couldn’t resist oogling the cavalcade of adorableness I had in the double stroller (boychild adorableness on top; girlchild adorableness in the lower berth). We got to talking (can I help it?), and she made some passing reference to my “husband.” After a teeny wave of discreet, bemused surprise washed through me, I noted that it was my partner who gave birth to the kiddles, and I’m the husband, if husband there be. This being Berkeley, she rolled with it totally fine, like she was an Aikido black belt or whatever. Fortunately, she wasn’t embarassed at the mis-read (and neither, for that matter, did I scold her for the presumption). Instead she just began to gush about how wonderful it was that we were being parents (even if it was payback to compensate for the presumption, I certainly wasn’t going to interrupt her). I wish I could remember now the direct quotations, but they came fast and furious.
In our brief exchange, we rocketed so much back and forth to each other — she is a pediatric psychologist; she is Palestinian; her mother is gravely ill; her family is under a great strain to do the caretaking; she appreciates so much my compassion and understanding; she thinks our children are so fortunate to have such loving parents, and so on, and so on. Nothing like two garrolous gals in a slow-moving cafÃ© line.
Lattés in hand, we smiled and parted (did we hug? god, I think we might have even hugged, at least in the A-frame way you might hug a stranger), and as I was strolling away, I realized, hot darn, coming out is so worth it, every time. Twenty-five years ago, I mightn’t have thought so. As a college student, I was walking hand-in-hand through the night streets with my fresh love, and we heard someone spit out from a darkened frat house, “Faggot!” I looked at my sweetie and said, “Maggot? Maggot?” And then realized what he said. And then quickened our pace. But we knew even then that hate don’t stop love, not in the long run, and as the Palestinian pediatric psychologist and I couldn’t help but teach each other that morning, the more we know one another the more we will love one another.
At least so I think on this hopeful morning.
Some more NCOD-relevant links for your browsing pleaure:
• Mombian’s post today, which includes generous insights — and links — about coming out and parenthood.
• A Harris poll of straight attitudes about gay rights was released today, and it shows that more than half of straight folks want equality for gay folks. As part of their recently launched Straight for Equality program, PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) has produced a list of its highlights.