Thursday, July 10, 2008

Should Gays Remain in the Closet??

Last night I was on the phone with my West Coast blogger friend, Justin - we talk most nights - and eventually we got around to the topic of closeted gays, especially professionals. I do not recall exactly how we came to the subject, but in any event we ended up in a lively discussion. In my opinion, the decision to come out and/or be out professionally is a question each individual must decide for them self based upon all of the facts and circumstances in which they find themselves. The only case where I condone outing people is in the case of closeted gay politicians who consistently vote for anti-gay legislation and policies while at the same time they are out engaging in gay sex themselves. A good example is former Congressman Ed Schrock from Virginia Beach who had the second most anti-gay voting record in Congress yet sought out gay sex through a local gay sex phone service. In that case, the hypocrisy of his conduct in my view, justified his being outed.
Obviously there are some who clearly cannot live openly: currently gays in the military are a prime example. Others are less clear cut and often I believe the individual's personal fears/shame hold them more of a prisoner than any actual consequence they might suffer if they were totally out. One such case is a medical professional I know in Virginia Beach who is gay in private, yet engages in almost ridiculous story lines and logistics to keep his true self "secret" from patients. Personally, I suspect given his age, demeanor, etc., many people have it already figured out and it's a fairly open secret to everyone but this medical professional himself. Meanwhile, he wonders why no one wants a relationship with him. Like, who would want to climb into such are f*cked up closet? Sadly, this individual is one of but many who trap themselves in contorted lives that leave them (1) always living in fear and (2) unlikely to ever have a meaningful relationship with someone normal.
Admittedly, I was in the closet for many years and then even after I first came out, was in the closet at work for a year or so. Looking back, the worry and stress from hiding my "secret" and living in fear of discovery was so destructive. I wasn't happy and neither were those who I loved that bore some of the brunt of my unhappiness and the self-hate the closet engenders. Are there down sides to being out socially and professionally? Most definitely. Particularly, if one lives in a reactionary backwater such as Hampton Roads. There are surely law firms that would not hire me even if I wasn't at an age where age discrimination is perhaps a bigger problem. But then again, would I even want to be a member of firms like that? Believe me, I have been in those firms. The money may be better, but it comes at such an incredible price that one is truly selling their soul to be in a business setting that is cut throat, often amoral, and dehumanizes both the employers and the employees.
Having gambled and been totally out for over three years now, all I can say is that being out is so liberating. After a life time in the closet and suppressing my true self, I finally have a level of self-acceptance and happiness of who I am that had escaped me for so many, many years.


Anonymous said...

"The most important political step that any gay man or lesbian can take is to come out of the closet. It's been proven that it is easier to hate us and to fear us if you can't see us.” - Amanda Bearse

Love you & your blog Michael!

Java said...

I think it is generally healthier to be out of the closet. I agree there are some situations where a man needs to stay closeted, and I think that's a sad thing. No one should have to hide his or her sexual orientation. It's a sad commentary on society that it is so.

Michael-in-Norfolk said...

Thanks for the comments. I agree that coming out is such a powerful action. In my own case, I know of numerous individuals who have been forced to rethink their old mindsets. One client has gone from a homophobe to very gay supportive and may vote for a black Democarat come November. Simply knowing me as a gay man and a number of my gay freinds who are likewise professionals destroyed the old stereotyopes he had been brainwashed with.

Anonymous said...

Hi Michael,
Thanks for continuing to think aloud and telling it like it is. What would you say to a gay person who teaches young children in public schools?

Good topic!

Michael-in-Norfolk said...

The elementary school teacher situation is a tough one.

I think it would depend a great deal on where on lives and works. Is it some bumfuck, backwards area or some liberal progressive area? Also, what is the attitude of the school administration at both the school and district level? Lastly, how much emotional distress is the closet inflicting on the closeted gay? If it is extremely bad, maybe the risk associated with coming out is worth taking.

I know a number of teachers in the Norfolk/Virginia Beach who are pretty much out at work. Moreover, the Virginia Beach school system, for example, has a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and also offers domestic partnership benefits.

As I said before, it comes down to an all facts and circumstances analysis. No two individuals or situations are identical.