It is Opening Day in Baseball. Baseball is the passion of my life, the center of most of my existence. Coming out as an athlete and baseball player was not in harmony with that universe of homophobic athletes I grew up around. Constantly, in the locker rooms and on the field, the most denigrating remark you would hear is that “you play like a faggot.” That’s the way it was. In some places, that is the way it still is.
The world evolves though, and now everyone is rushing to come out of the closet, from Hollywood to baseball fields, so much so that our tongue in cheek cover and piece this week- in an otherwise serious issue- is that coming out of the closet has become the fashionable and trendy thing to do. In fact, we have created a waiting list for those seeking sunlight and affirmation as friends of Dorothy. Dame Edna would be proud.
The truth is that it is manifestly important for you to come out of the closet personally and professionally. Even as society moves towards a more tolerant attitude about homosexuality, there are still broad pockets and deep ponds of prejudice against homosexuals. We see it in the Armed Forces. We witness in the media reading about more and more hate crimes. We are reminded of it painfully with each new Matthew Shepherd.
It is necessary for gay people to let mainstream society know the individual facts and many faces of discrimination. It is imperative that the comfortable majority is aware that there is a minority who cannot yet fully access all their freedoms.
You don’t have to broadcast your sexuality on a billboard, announce it on the radio, or publish a letter to your family. You just have to carry and comport yourself truthfully, so when a colleague publishes a demeaning gay comment in the workplace, you can assert how that is inappropriate. Read, for example, Brian McNaught’s thoughtful piece in today’s issue about coming out in the workplace. Be real, be yourself, and be proud. Being open means you never have to say you are sorry for who you are. Stop living your life to please others.
I was recently solicited by a community political leader to use my column to endorse a “gay friendly politician.”
“He is actually part of the family,” my friend remarked.
“So let me get this right,” I responded angrily, “I should use my column to endorse a leader who is in the closet to be a spokesperson for everyone else who has the courage to be out?”
Frankly, if that candidate wants to remain in the political closet, he can also stay the hell out of the state house. We need statesmen who are more concerned about exposing injustice than they are worried about themselves being exposed. That does not mean every gay candidate gets endorsed because of who they sleep with in the evening. What they bring to the table and have achieved in the daytime matters more. Frankly, candidates who think they earn the endorsement of the gay community just because they happen to be gay are deluding themselves. It is what they stand for, and have stood for, that matters more.
One of the most inspiring letters we ever got at the Express was written by a Melanie Blair, from West Melbourne, Florida. It read: “I feel it necessary to also remember those of us who are silent activists every day. I wish to commend the countless numbers of us who refuse to be closeted in our daily lives. By standing up and being named as gay or lesbian, we slowly break the myth that we are deviant or abnormal. By being open about our sexuality, Edwe silently prove that the only difference between ‘us’ and ‘them’ is whom we choose to love.”
Those words speak the truth.