Monday, October 11, 2010

National Coming Out Day 2010 - Personal Reflections

Today is National Coming Out Day, 2010, a day in which anyone who is living in any kind of "closet" is encouraged to step out into the light and no longer be afraid to be the person you were born to be.


  • 9 out of 10 LGBT students have experienced harassment at school.
  • LGBT teens are bullied 2 to 3 times as much as straight teens.
  • More than 1/3 of LGBT kids have attempted to commit suicide.
  • LGBT kids are 4 times as likely to attempt suicide then our straight peers.
  • LGBT youth with “highly rejecting” families are 8 times more likely to attempt suicide than those whose families accept them.
I want to take a quick moment here to promote Dan Savage's It Gets Better Project - and to take the pledge:
THE PLEDGE: We are the kids who have been bullied for being gay, lesbian, bi or trans. We pledge to stay open and strong. We are also the friends, family members, teachers, mentors, and allies of anyone who’s ever felt like they didn’t fit in, gay or straight. We pledge to talk to the kids in our lives to put an end to the hate, violence, and tragedy — and to offer advice on coping, strategies to make it better, and to remind kids that It Gets Better.
Some regular readers of this blog, or my other blog (Integral Options Cafe), know that I believe sexuality is a spectrum, not a binary. Almost no one is either 100% straight or 100% gay in my experience.

I am in a long-term relationship with Jami, a woman, and the majority of my longer relationships have been with women. But I do not identify as straight, nor am I bisexual or gay. In fact, I tend not to identify at all if I can help it.

In my personal experience, love is not gender specific - my emotions do not take the other person's genitals into account when that connection is present. It's about the connection, the chemistry, the sense of safety and intimacy.

Unfortunately, a lot of people, men in particular, do not see this issue in the same way that I do. Maybe it's a religious issue, or homophobia, or simply a fear of that which is "other" - it really doesn't matter, all of them deny another person his/her full rights as a human being, including the right to feel safe from ridicule, harassment, or violence.

Most bullying of and violence against GLBT youth is perpetrated by males - and among young males, the only thing worse than being considered feminine is being seen as a "fag." We use these labels to keep young men trapped in traditional gender roles, to crush their sense of identity, to shame them into the closet.

The problem often starts with men - so the solution begins with men. As parents, as teachers, as coaches, as mentors, it is up to us to teach young people that people are all the same, all deserving of love and acceptance, not shame, not harassment, not bullying.

* * * * *

Paul Katz's article at Huffington Post today represents the experience of a lot of young men who are gay or who experience same-sex attraction (the two are not necessarily the same) - Gay Bullying: How I Know It Does Get Better - he was horribly bullied. Here is a part of his story:

Although I was horribly bullied, my thoughts never turned to suicide. My parents loved and protected me. Neighbors and teachers watched out for me. I joke that watching too many ABC After School Specials about troubled teens helped me to know taking my life was not the answer. Somehow, even then, I knew it was going to be better someday.

Four years later, I came out as gay. I expected the bullying to get worse, but to my near shock, it practically stopped.

Looking back, one reason I think the bullying largely stopped was because of my high school involvement in theater and music departments. The arts absolutely provided me with an outlet for creative expression, and I believe whatever talents people thought I had outweighed any issues with my romantic or sexual preferences.

Only one person ever gave me a problem. He was a football jock a year younger and threatened to kill me all the time. I was constantly in the Dean's office dealing with it. Ironically enough, his last name was Queen.

Within a year of my graduation from high school, the jock had started dabbling in the theater department. In 1989, I was surprised to find him among my castmates in a summer theater production.

During a social event, this bully who continually threatened to kill me came out to me. I asked him how he could possibly explain why he'd given me so much grief. He said, "Look, if you hadn't been "so out" I never would have thought about being gay." So he blamed me.

Because of him, to this day I absolutely believe "those who protest the most" are repressing their own gay desires and fascinations. It continues to be proven over and over again with each "gay scandal" that comes out of a religious sect or the political arena.

The Trevor Project is currently spotlighting a slew of videos from celebrities encouraging gay youth to know that "it does get better." This blog is my way of doing what I can to assist in getting that message out as well.

The bullies come after you because you know who you are. Your comfort in your own skin makes them jealous, afraid, miserable and unhappy. So they want to make you feel the same way they do. Do not let the bullies win. It does get better, especially once you're out of high school. Just hold on. I did and so have millions of others.

A friend of mine sent me the video below created by "The Young and the Restless" actor Thom Bierdz. The theater and music departments I mentioned above, and the adults who ran them, helped me tremendously as a gay teen. Just as I am moved by what The Trevor Project is doing, I am equally moved by Thom's efforts and wanted to bring more attention to his video and


* * * * *

What Paul says at the end of his post is crucial - gay youth know who they are, and for others who do not have this self awareness, those kids are scary and intimidating.

When I was that age, I did not know who I was - I feel as though I was a bully, not necessarily toward gay kids, but toward others who seemed also not to know who they were - each a painful reminder of my own self-doubt and insecurity.

Even now, I am ashamed of who I was as a teen - not for being insecure or lacking self-knowledge, but for anything I did or may have done (or those that I did not stop) that made life harder and less enjoyable for the young people around me. I'm profoundly sorry.

I cannot undo the things I have done in the past, but I can make a difference in the present and in the future. I can work for tolerance and compassion in my community and I can assist people (men in particular) in embracing their identities as men - straight, gay, trans, bi, or however they identify.

No one should ever be afraid to stand in the light and say, with pride, I am . . . . .

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