When I saw the PFLAG
(Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) contingent on pride day in Toronto
tears welled in my eyes. It is so amazing and overwhelming to see parents wearing
shirts that say "I love my gay son." I get all emotional because I
know my parents will NEVER support me in this way. It is reassuring that there
are some parents who really mean it when they offer unconditional support to
their children. These wonderful people remind me of how ashamed I am of my parents.
This is the support I deserve and need and will never get from my parents.
The conversation with my dad quickly turned to gardening as though this whole thing never happened. It was really quite surreal. I shouldn't really expect anything different at this point because this always happens. Every time I try to discuss anything that relates to queers my parents shut off. My mom tries to cut off the conversation and says it will only make us fight. She is too set in her ways to even listen to what I have to say. She claims that being queer is wrong and unnatural, period. There is nothing to argue. On some level both of my parents have convinced themselves that if we don't discuss things they will go away. Like if i don't press the fact that I'm queer that maybe I really will become straight after all. Or if I don't talk about it for long enough I'll forget the whole thing and remember just how straight I really am. This how they give themselves hope; "don't ask, don't tell."
The huge booming crash I was expecting ended up being more like a whisper than anything. There are hurt feelings and my parents are not dealing with it well at all, but I was expecting there to be a lot of yelling and screaming involved in the whole situation. More than anything a huge weight has been lifted off of my shoulders and I am a lot more willing to be open with them wether they like my decisions or not. My parents do not give me the respect and support I deserve EVER and this particular instance is no different. I have learned to not expect their support and I knew they wouldn't take my coming out well at all. This situation is obviously not ideal for me but it is what I have to work with. I can no longer expect their support as I once did.
Much to my surprise the actual fear of my parents reaction was greater then the positive results of coming out. This has been the case every time I come out and the incident with my parents was probably not even the scariest I can recall. I had been putting off telling them and kind of decided I wouldn't really bother hiding things any more like the fact I went to a conference in Toronto on queer issues and about my experience at pride day. I didn't tell them I marched naked in front of 750 000 people but that is a whole other story.
I remember feeling terrified at the possible consequences of coming out to people at a show when I did a spoken word piece. I was really nervous. I was sweating and shaking and to start I could barely speak. The crowd was silent and I could tell that everyone was listening to me speak, I found that reassurring. I was grateful to have the support of my friends but I wasn't sure what was going to happen. Were people going to beat me up after the show? Was I going to be taunted? What? To my surprise I got nothing but support. All of my friends came and hugged me and people I didn't know came up to shake my hand and thank me. It felt absolutely amazing. I never would have imagined how supportive people can be. I tend to just automatically assume people are homophobic until they prove otherwise, it is kind of a defence mechanism that I have employed. It is starting to fade with experience but it is still present to a certain extent.
There are a lot of fears about coming out to people, but I honestly think there can only be more good results than anything. If we remain closeted we reinforce the false notion that being queer is a bad thing but since being queer is actually quite fabulous we might as well share it with everyone.
When you come out to people it takes them by surprise. It shows people that you are proud of something that they often think of negatively and makes them think about their beliefs. It offers an alternate viewpoint that many people have not previously encountered. If we don't feel comfortable with the idea of coming out to strangers we should at least afford ourselves the same openness and honesty with the people close to us that they do. We should talk about our loves and lives candidly to prove to people that there is nothing to be ashamed of.
Maybe this whole time I have been really lucky but I have come out to entire classes at school, with art work at the student gallery, on the internet, at work, in the streets, at home and so on without people being able to grind me down. I have gained enough confidence in my decisions that when people react negatively it doesn't hurt. I know what is right for me. I believe that people only have as much power over you as you allow them and I am not willing to put people above me. Most people who react in disgust or fear do so because they really don't know any queers and they are only going by what society tells them; that being queer is horrible. When you act as a positive example of being queer people generally rethink things and react positively. I am not saying we should subscribe to the school of thought that says queers are just like everyone else. Too many people are so quick to say 'we' are just like everyone else. When I hear that I think "we are sexist, racist, speciesist jerks, just like the rest of society." I hope you can see the reasons why we should be fighting all of those things.
When I first started to realize I was queer I never thought I'd see the day when I would hold another boy's hand in public. I never thought I would be able to tell anyone I was queer but after a while I didn't want to keep everything hidden and I couldn't wait to tell people. I often worry about the repercussions of things like holding hands or kissing in public. It may be scary at first but if nothing else you might be rather amused at some of the looks you get from people. After going ahead and doing all of these things I begin to wonder how much fear we bring on ourselves. I am not trying to say that homophobia and fear don't exist, but I think we often hold back too much for all the wrong reasons. If we allow fear to override our basic needs and desires then we allow the bigots to win, that is exactly what they want. We make it ok to be homophobic when we live in fear. I am nearly convinced that most people generally don't care if you are queer, they just want to keep on doing the things they do and being queer doesn't usually effect that.
I don't think there is really a need to come out to everyone we encounter, but visibility IS important. It would probably be kind of pointless and even pretty obnoxious to be suddenly blurting out that you are a homo to the clerk when you are buying groceries, but at the same time I don't want people assuming I'm straight. We don't need to be afraid of telling people that we went to a particular gay event or about going to visit a partner or anything of this nature. Our society has made it very difficult to do anything other than what is expected and when we challenge that publicly we make it easier, not only for ourselves but for others as well. If we are visible we can give strength to those who are not yet ready to come out. We can be positive role models to others. If we are open and honest with people we will get the same in return. Take the incident with my dad for example. He followed my lead. He never tells me about his fears or worries and then after I come out to him he starts to tell me that he is worried about what his friends will think. I don't bother to tell him that I think his friends are morons but it the incident makes a point.
On the other hand I just read a zine where the author mentioned how her parents kicked her out of the house when she told them she was a dyke. In any gay magazine you can find stories about people getting bashed. We can't disregard our safety but being completely closeted isn't healthy either. The bashers are the ones who have already made their minds up and no amount of talking is going to change them. They are looking for people who THEY perceive as being queer wether or not the reality of the situation matches up. This enforces gender guildlines and many misconceptions about who or what homos are and look like. Beleive it or not homophobia effects everyone. We shouldn't let the acts of the "radical fringe" dictate how we live. Although homophobia is quite wide spread not many are willing to act out in violence so when I say "radical fringe" I refer to bashers and not homophobes in general.
Unfortunately not everyone can be as out as they should. We have to assess our situations and REALLY think about what is holding us back. We have to determine as best we can how people will react. At times this is an impossibility and at these times I say go for it! I have learned that people deserve a lot more credit then I often give them and that the only ones stopping us from being wonderful is ourselves. It is hard to put words into action but it gets easier every time. I was really apprehensive to mention my boyfriend to anyone at my last job but it turns out people didn't really care and in fact opened up quite a bit to me. This one woman started asking me all sorts of questions and couldn't really understand how i could have sex with both men and women. It was funny because at one point she actually told me that I should pick one or the other. We CAN make a difference to people, even if it is to no one but ourselves. Being honest with ourselves is a starting point and is essential if we are to be honest with anyone else. We are the ones who have to sleep at night and if we can't deal with our own decisions some work needs to be done. We are strong and powerful, we just need to acknowledge it and spread our wings. "Know your strength, face your fears." You kick ass!
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