Tuesday, October 11, 2011

National Coming Out Day, 2011

A short list of things (trivial and otherwise) I might have done in years past, were I not so infused with internalized homophobia:
  • Participated in a play or two in high school without fear of being termed a theater fag.
  • Hit the gym specifically to become more muscle-bound (since not only was I afraid of my attraction to bigger guys, I was afraid of what it might mean if I actively pursued becoming one of them myself).
  • And hence...been healthier and more self-confident.
  • Listened to the Smiths and Erasure more.
  • Felt more comfortable not entering into dead-end relationships with girls.
  • Broken fewer hearts.
  • Kissed a boy.
  • Been more open with a certain summer camp counselor - while I was a summer camp counselor, too! Nothing illegal here!
Then again, I might have also:
  • been beaten up more
  • been shunned by my family, possibly disowned
  • had very few people to relate to
  • had very few teachers I could rely on for help
  • been summarily fired for being more open with that summer camp counselor
  • been banned from Boy Scouts (oh...which might have rendered the summer camp scene moot)
But internalized homophobia did not keep me from:
  • looking at guys unendingly
  • having a crush on a high school girlfriend's linebacker brother (yes, you read right)
  • flaming out occasionally
  • listening to the Nylons and the occasional Broadway soundtrack
  • getting excited in 9th grade while reading Plato and discovering, quite graphically, that Socrates was at least bi, if not entirely homosexual. (the Charmides dialogue, if you are curious)
It's so weird, though, growing up with messages from friends, family, and society at large that do not jibe with what you're experiencing. Lots of grown-ups at the time told me that they would never want to live through being a teenager again, because my God all those hormones! For me, it wasn't so much about the uncontrollable sex urges, because in my case, they had to be controllable. Yet at the same time, so many of my friends were going girl crazy, and I thought I just had more restraint than they did. For me, the trials and travails of hormones manifested in some pretty profound anguish, and not in sex. Years later, I'm starting to see what the hormonal rush really was about, and I do feel like I lost out on a lot.

The act of coming out was the most important thing I ever accomplished. As I alluded to in a post a year ago, when I was finally out (halfway through college), it didn't matter that I had just failed a quiz, or that it was cold and rainy, or that I had just missed lunch and my stomach was rumbling, or whatever was conspiring to ruin my day. For the first time since those damned hormones began coursing through my body half a lifetime ago, I finally felt solid in who I was. I had a solid foundation upon which I could rest my identity. It was the most profoundly comforting feeling I'd ever had. And it was not sinful.

So what's done is done. I'm out, so are millions more of my brothers and sisters, and honestly, the world is becoming a better place because of it. People are pausing more when they say anti-gay things or voting against so-called "gay rights," knowing that oh yeah, there is that couple down the road from us, and they are actually kinda nice, and don't they seem "normal"? (Whatever that is.) And some parents are undoubtedly pausing as well, because, well, what if my son/daughter isn't straight? So they are having a harder time justifying those homophobic words and deeds. And it all started in huge part over 42 years ago because a handful of queer boys, butch lesbians, and drag queens revolted when police tried to arrest them and throw them in jail for the crime of peacefully gathering together and having a drink at a bar.

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