Why stay out so long?

You hear the complaint quite frequently; Why do you have to talk about being gay all the time? Can’t you just leave it be?  You can see the point in theory: Who would need to announce to virtual strangers that they were any kind of ‘minority.’ Isn’t that just inflating a point and shoving it into people’s faces, which can increase existing or potential resentment?

We could argue that even needing to ‘be out’ and admit to being gay isn’t necessary and causes negative-attention, but if this is your observation think on this: Everyday people get out so that others can, causing a chain-reaction, until eventually, what was once considered unnatural, is considered natural. That’s because exposure to things that are unfamiliar, resolves underlying anxieties more than any academic discourse achieves.

I am often asked: When you can’t physically hide being a ‘minority’ you have no choice,  and if you do have a choice, what’s wrong with taking it? I lived in the closet on-and-off for a variety of reasons for several years and got so used to not being harassed and tormented that it became a false comfort. It resolves nothing and the shame when you understand the absence of honesty, runs deep. Change comes from a desire to engender change, in the words of Eckhart Tolle: “To love is to recognize yourself in another.” Gays need to exist openly to give non-gays opportunity to see we’re no different.

When we look at racism, studies show racism actually reduces when African-American’s moved into previously exclusively white neighborhoods. But it didn’t happen immediately. The immediate response was one of resentment, anger and prejudice, and white Americans resented the influx of African-American’s initially. But in time, that resentment gave way to acceptance and even integration. It took the courage of those black families deciding to move into neighborhoods that didn’t warmly welcome them, it took the courage of their staying put and not letting prejudice run them off, to effect change.

Much of this is about gays being able to hide, whilst other minority groups like African-American’s cannot. There is a reason why gays should not hide, because in hiding we are one less face fighting the good fight. Why a fight you may ask? Because if a gay person were to really ask for equality they still would not get it, if gays were to ask to be accepted for who they are, some would, and some would not. And as long as that inequality exists, our voice must protest its existence or nothing changes.

As gays we may not run the risk being led-away in chains in the US today, but go to another country and there’s no guarantee. It doesn’t mean as gays we can walk the streets proudly without fear of reprisal, and that would include any city in America. Sounds a lot like Benjamin Franklin’s famous perspective: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” In other words, we should ask: Is it brave to hide and weak to protest? And if so, when did that become normalized?

As long as any type of inequality exists, all gay people remain a minority who have somehow to justify ourselves. People roll their eyes, espouse that we should shut up and stop talking about it and things will surely get better, but as history tells us, this rarely happens. For example, every time women make this choice, they take a step backward, same with any minority. Exhibit a; the increase and normalizing of pole-dancing to keep husbands content. Would the original Women’s Movement of the 1970’s have approved or thought this progressive?

If you are not convinced, look as the relative silence of Hispanics in the US as a good example of why they do not have the voice of African-American’s despite being in greater numbers. If you don’t speak for yourself, who will? If you don’t believe in equality for yourself, who will? And most of all, if nobody will defend you, who is left but yourself? I think of the quote by Jiddu Krisnamurti: “It is no measure of health to be well—adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” Better by far, to change what ails, surely?

Ask any Hispanic in America and they will relate stories of equal eye-rolling when they talk about a necessity for equality, ask any Jewish person in America and they will relate stories of equal eye-rolling when they talk about the Holocaust. When did our society become so intolerant to historical truths? Perhaps it’s the old adage, those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it? Our lack of patience for realities, past and present, says more about our lack of compassion. Is it because until we experience things for ourselves we cannot see the value of anyone else’s perspectives?

In an increasingly selfish society, change comes best when people see it and are forced to live with it. Parents of gay children, people with gay friends, tend to become slowly more habituated and tolerant of gays even if formerly anti-gay. But ask yourself, is it enough to be ‘tolerant?’ True change is where we stop seeing differences as potentially negative.

During the years, like many others, I’ve been told I’m a pervert, I’m psychologically ill, I’m a man-hater, I’m afraid of true relationships, I’m just reacting to childhood abuse, I’m in a phase, I’m disgusting, I’m obviously a child-molester, and many other things. I’ve had female friends who are afraid of me, thinking I will molest them, and male friends who want to “sex me up” to help me learn the value of heterosexuality. I’ve done things I never thought I would do just to be, who I am. So if we talk about having to explain who we are, it’s really the gay person who is pushed to justify why they are gay, especially as it’s still considered by many to be a choice.

Being gay has always existed. Penguins can be gay. It is one of those things you wouldn’t wish on anybody in the way it’s currently handled in societies throughout the world, but you can’t really say you would wish it away, because it’s like saying you wish you weren’t who you are. Even in this so-called-world of liberated values, gays are killed every week, in certain countries I would be put to death, in others I would be set upon, in others I’d be spat at, in others I’d be jailed.

Just think about that for a moment. When it was illegal for blacks and whites to marry those that did get together, had children who were shunned by both groups. How is it very different for gays who continue to lie to families who would otherwise cut them out of their lives, or lie to their employer so they would not be squeezed out? Or are unable, despite the length and value of their relationships to marry, whilst heterosexuals who have just met, can marry at the altar of Vegas.

Being gay isn’t all hunky-dory just because there are some laws that protect us. In fact often after the passing of a law, anti-gay sentiment rises up, out of frustration. See France as a recent example of this and the anti-gay under-current that exists in relatively liberal Canada. For every step forward, there are many steps back. Think how it would feel to know mass protests occur because people hate you and think you are unnatural? In many countries and states, gays cannot legally adopt, we are treated as inferior, unequal, unnatural and still can’t be the normal we know we are.

Even those who profess to be comfortable and accepting, often aren’t quite so and this makes it very hard to trust people and know how much you can share with them. I didn’t sexually desire my female friends, and most gays aren’t more lascivious than anyone else but if you watch the news, most anti-gay rhetoric labors the point that gays can’t be Boy Scout Leaders because they are sexual deviants and other stereotypes that are so wide-spread as to be commonly accepted by the majority. Usually gays suffer higher rates of depression due to these subtle undercurrents that undermine personal value and security.

Ask yourself; if you were gay would you feel comfortable walking hand-in-hand or kissing in public as you would if you were heterosexual? Let’s not forget when everyone’s relaxed, how funny jokes are that involve gay-themes, but imagine how those jokes would be received if they were racist? Why is one widely accepted and the other not? What is difference in the root of prejudice of both? Not having equal rights under law, is like the law saying you are not worthy of equality, and as the Supreme Court when reviewing gay-issues recently questioned, maybe it’s too soon for equality for you! Since when is equality ever too soon?

It is just as hard being a person of color, being a woman, being disabled and a plethora of other things, but few would feel it were justified to say a black person had no right to bemoan his or her inequality, and if they did say that, there are laws to protect that person and labels to explain their prejudice. Few would be proud to admit to being racist, but many would think nothing of being labeled a homophobe, it’s almost a badge of honor.

That said, many inequalities exist, and that does not justify the existence of any inequality. I am often told, well there is still inequality for people of color and women, as if somehow that justifies inequality of any type. Surely like any chain-reaction, equality should come from every sector and merge together to create a strong river of change. That’s one reason all minorities should see the value of others.

Let’s not forget people who worry, equality for gays will open the door to equality for polygamists, pedophiles and other deviations. They argue that such predilections could be eventually sanctioned on the same basis as gay equality. I disagree on the grounds that being gay does not harm anyone and multiple marriages can.

We could argue this forever, but ultimately it comes down to the validity of a harmless relationship versus one of unequal power. Yes all relationships are subject to abuse and we’re going to see negative portrayals of gays, things we’d never sanction, but that’s no different to the negative portrayals of heterosexuals and speaks more of human fallibility.

Currently there are no laws to protect gays. We can be fired for being gay, we can be imprisoned in certain countries for being gay, we can be thrown out of our house and lose everything including the right to make medical decisions and attend the funeral of our partner. This happens, it happens far more than anyone realizes.

When the family of one gay person is anti-gay and that person gets sick and needs constant care, the family can remove that person and deny access to their partner, no matter how many years they have been together, this isn’t protected in those places where gays are not able to marry or have a civil union. Should we really be grateful for some equality when the only equality that truly matters is full equality?

I ask that if you can’t see why equality doesn’t yet exist and should exist including all forms of equality (such as being able to marry in a church regardless just as blacks have demanded the same rights in marrying in formerly racist churches or ones who would not permit interracial marriages) adopt and many other things, you consider now.

Initially I saw no reason to ‘force’ churches to accept gay marriages because I felt they had the right to choose whom they wanted to marry. I realized that if I were a black man wishing to marry a white woman it would be wrong for a church to turn us away, and validate the negativity of prejudice, and that’s why the law protects such racism. Surely this must equally apply to gays or we’re saying our right to avoid prejudice isn’t as necessary.

We can’t stop with just the first step of equality; it has to exist as much as for you, and you, and you. For all of us. For all those who will come after us, so one day a child is born into a world that hopefully doesn’t know what inequality is. Yes at times that will be repetitive, even boring, but it’s necessary in every struggle for equality, and if we make it fashionable to keep our mouths shut and just hope for the day things change, we will be waiting a very long time.

What kind of lesbian would I be if I were born today?

two women kissing while wrapped in rainbow flag
Photo by Karina Irias on Pexels.com

I see your pictures on social media

a part of me is envious

of your freedom

even though women many years before

either of us

had absolutely no freedom and only those

with enough money could consider taking

a woman as their lover

it is hard to imagine

each generation I suspect

forgets the sacrifices of the last

cannot envision a time when

it was illegal to love

my experience was never that awful

I had freedoms many women still do not possess

and I am grateful for that

but sometimes when I see your

youthful face and the grace with which you accept love

how natural and easy it feels

I recall how I began

hiding in dark bars, trying to fit in, failing

never one to play endless games of poker face

I didn’t fit in with my own kind then

but if I’d been you

born in the sun with your turquoise eyes like the Donovan song

I might have had on my arm

a whole host of dreams and not

dabbled in boys for a few futile and unhappy years or

felt I couldn’t have had children and let

my fear and my constraint decide for me

the future

you are the age my daughter might be

and I would like to think I’d have

done all you have done had I been born

in a time of greater acceptance where

women who love women can grow their hair

and not have to cling to stereotypes or subterfuge

carrying knots of shame and confusion

like blankets never stretched out and slept on

I would have gotten a tattoo and maybe

been less shy and apologetic

I remember at 18 that’s all I seemed to do

sorry to my family for not having turned out straight

sorry to my friends for being the odd one out

sorry to the gays on the march who thought

with my dresses and my long tresses I was a weekend

lesbian

if they only knew

what it took and what I sacrificed

maybe they understand now

but we’re all a little older and

you don’t recapture what you felt at 18

you remember it like a language

I spoke the language of trial and error

I suspect you speak the language of love

just a little freer

so forgive me if I envy you as you walk past me

hand in hand, laughing, the edges of your hair

hitting your waist

like a Summer tidal wave.

SMITTEN – This is What Love Looks Like – Poetry by women for women – an anthology of poetry published by Indie Blu(e) will be out OCTOBER 2019 and available through all good book sellers. Please consider following SMITTEN’s FB page at https://www.facebook.com/SMITTENwomen/

If you are interested in supporting this project in any way please contact me @ candicedaquin@gmail.com. All LGBTQ projects are a little more challenging to succeed and we want the 120_+ poets who have work in SMITTEN to be read by many! Indie Blu(e) and their submissions rules can be found at www.indieblu.net69885770_486778818770380_803119555336470528_n