Sunday, October 14, 2007

Coming Out Day

October 11 is Coming Out Day every year, and I since I've been living in Holland, think I hear about it at the end of the day on October 11 every year. (I think it's mostly a US sort of thing.)

In graduate school, I knew a kid who had been quite the small town celebrity when he came out on Coming Out Day during high school. So it was a big deal to him. Not so much with me, although I respect it, and I think that it's important for gay people to come out. Get out of the closet. It sucks to be in their. I've heard people whine about what their parents' reactions would be. Well, I've got Southern Baptist, Republican, (literally) gun toting, NRA card-carrying parents. So just shut your trap and come out of the closet. End of sermon.

Anyway, this year October 11 fell on a Thursday. I started three classes on that day and I said to Fred, "I came out three times today." In each of my classes, there were people I had never met, and almost every time I meet people, there's that question of "Why did you move to Holland?" I have no answer other than, "My partner is Dutch." And then I use the pronoun "he" and if there was any question, it's answered.

Even last year, while I was teaching high school, I came out to all of my classes. Not in a big dramatic way. I just answered when I was asked. Dutch high school students are brought up differently. I didn't have any students who were out and I had one colleague who was out. There were certainly a couple of colleagues who I looked at initially and thought, "Sistah!" But then I heard " girlfriend..." and I thought, "...really..." Maybe it's that European thing.

When I left Texas for good, I left on a train for a month-long trip around the US and finally ended up in New York City. As I was sitting on the train, I told myself, "I will never deny being gay every again." I was almost a little bit misty at the time and I decided that it was time to be truthful to myself and to the world. In Texas, it was a sort of survival thing in a way to be closeted in certain situations. It's not that you could get killed necessarily. It's just that it is better to just keep your mouth shut. Let people assume heterosexuality, which they will. Sort of a passive closetedness. I realize that it sounds like I'm talking out of both sides of my mouth, but I came out to my father knowing who he was and knowing the consequences. So there.

So while I was on the train, somewhere between Chicago and Boston, I met two other young people. (I met tons of people on the train and talked for hours to complete strangers.) One was Christine and one was Luke. Christine was some sort of student and Luke was a French fellow in the States for some reason. Luke was all about being gay and being out and flamboyant. Christine was fascinated with it. I looked them right in the eye and told them both that I was not gay. I pulled out a photo of me and my friend, Linda, and said that Linda was my girlfriend. There was just something smarmy about the way Luke was portraying homosexuality and I didn't want to be associated with it at all. So while I looked as gay as a box of birds, I shook my head and said, "No. Never. Not even once." Lie lie lie.

I think that was the last time I was closeted. Here in Holland it's just not an issue. It's not like everyone is a total Lefty and okay with it, but most people have the good sense to not say anything if they have a differing opinion.

Coming out affects family as well, I think, and each member of my family has to one degree or another, with differing levels of shame, come out. I'm proud of them, especially my sister, Kathy, who is "totally into it." I know it's not easy for some of them to admit it and that they have a variety of ideas about it, but at least they don't lie (I hope) about their 42-year-old brother/son who is unmarried and living in Amsterdam.

If you're closeted and reading this, my advice is to come out sooner than later. Don't live the lie. It's deadly.


Elemmaciltur said...

Interesting read! Thank you for sharing!

muoriska said...

Good for you.
I just sometimes wonder what people really think , but I'm not a mindreader.
I have had a good bunch of gay friends, and I'm fine with them.

Don't know if you have listened Pet Shop Boys, but they have few good lyrics about coming out, and, for all, growing to know your self.
( In denial and Metamorphosis)

Have an nice week.

Mama Mojo said...

I totally agree with this. It's deadly. It scares me to think of all those poor souls locked away in their skins, suffering and afraid, and of the consequences they bring upon themselves emotionally by staying locked up, denying their right to be in the world. Unless you live in a place where your life is in danger if you come out, there's no reason to live in hiding.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I totally agree and it is just another reason I'm proud to be living in the Netherlands.