Thursday, December 03, 2009

Why Coming Out and Living Openly Matters

On Hearsay with Cathy Lewis yesterday (btw, thank you Lyndon for your very kind words), one caller said that he had no desire to identify with the gay community because the media stereotype of gay males is effeminate, sissy males. While his comments were in part true, what he failed to grasps is that the MAJORITY of gay males are NOT effeminate as per the stereotype. So much so, in fact, that they generally pass for straight and those who casually observe them and even socialize with them will typically assume that they are anything but gay. Indeed, I have gay clients who are military personnel in special forces divisions. These men could literally kill you with their bare hands and appear outwardly as macho as they come, yet they are just as homosexual as some nellie gay.
The truth is that stereotypes die only when there are enough readily available examples to the contrary that the image portrayed by the stereotype becomes a recognizable caricature as opposed to the generally known reality. What's the best way to kill prejudicial stereotypes? To come out and live openly so as to show the falsehood of the stereotype. I realize that not everyone is at a place in their life that they can come out - they may be in the military, hold a job where they might be fired, etc. - but those of us who can need to do so. I commented yesterday on Meredith Baxter's coming out and how I applauded her. Now, she intends to write a book that hopefully will educate others that, contrary to what our Christianist enemies preach, the vast majority of us in the LGBT community are every day ordinary people and live lives not so different than the general public. Here are highlights from a story in The Advocate:
“The message I get is that I’m America’s mom,” Baxter told The Advocate. “And because research seems to show that people who have someone who is gay in their family — or a friend or just know someone in the community who is gay — they seem to have a more open attitude about gay and lesbian issues. So I can say I’m still that mom. I am still the same person. I’m non-threatening, I’m very friendly, I’m accessible, and if they can say, ‘OK, well, she’s a lesbian, maybe that’s not such a scary thing. And if she can come out and say that without too much fear, then maybe I can do that.’ If it makes a difference to a couple of people, then I guess it’s worthwhile.”
It is true that Baxter outed herself before tabloids could do so, but now that she's done that, she seems to have the correct attitude. Each one of us CAN make a difference by being who we are and telling our stories. Yes, it can be terrifying and even dangerous. But the freedom and relief of being able to be yourself 24/7 is invaluable. I was in the closet for decades and I can say with certainty that I'd NEVER want to live that way again. Never, ever.

1 comment:

WranglerMan said...

Meredith Baxter is a powerful spokesperson for the GLBT community and for marriage equality.

Bravo to her!!