Closets As Rights Of Passage

Posted: 07/24/2012 by erichblayde in Activism, Gay Pride

Hello dear readers, I thought I might chat with you about a rather interesting thing I ran into just the other day. I happened to be peeking around the internet and I came upon an interesting comment describing the act of coming out of the closet as a “cultural right of passage within the queer community”

Um….Hu? Closet was a what?

Nu-uh.

On a hunch I hit up the Google for a whirlwind tour of opinions on coming out as a right of passage. I wasn’t really thinking I was going to get anything so you can imagine my surprise when I got back a ton of hits. From one website I gleaned that “Coming out marks the rite of passage to a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender identity.” Another site informed me “Coming out or coming out of the closet is a rite of passage for every LGBT person, and is the term that describes the process of disclosing one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity to other people.”

Was I the only gay that missed coming out supposedly being something akin to getting your drivers license or going to the bar for the first time? I just had to go through this experience (for the millionth time) again yesterday morning and let me tell you it sure didn’t feel like when I got my first car.

Coming out is indeed something most young queers have to go through but I think I would stop short of calling it a rite of passage. Some how that seems a little too….flippant, to describe something that can have such drastic effects on a person.

Take, for example last nights email quandry that occured when my newly found cousin Anne asked the seemingly innocent question “So what is it about your lifestyle that caused the family to disown you?” Now some might have sloughed that off, made generic comments or the like, but to me that feels like I am dishonoring myself and it’s just not something I am willing to do. So I sat at work for a good two hours, chewing my lip, fretting, trying to bring myself to write back to her.

Now I knew she is as religious as the rest of my family and (given the region in which she lives) most likely conservative as all hell. I knew there wasn’t a way around it for someone with the morality sense I have been cursed with, so it wasn’t a matter of whether or not to answer her honestly, it was just a question of how the hell to word it in a way that might give me a fighting chance to salvage some sort of relationship to literally the only Eide cousin that speaks to me.

Eventually I just did what I always do in these situations, shot straight from the hip. I didn’t make it a big fuss, was honest about why the family couldn’t come to terms with it, told her I hoped it didn’t mean she walked away too, and asked about her cow herd. Immediately after hitting the send button I started second guessing myself, a process that didn’t end until three hours later when my email binged a response.

It took me a long time to open that email and even more time to force my heart out of my throat afterwards, but in the end the result was better than I could have hoped. Anne’s view on things was as long as I could respect her then she could respect me. She was honest with me too, letting me know she was an orthodox Christian but reassuring me she wasn’t a “stick up my butt” kind.

My most recent coming out experience went far better than I thought it might, and for that I am grateful, but I think the point that sticks in my mind about the whole rite of passage issue is this:

It shouldn’t have to be a rite of anything.

And yes, I know that kind of thinking is (at this time) pie-in-the-sky dreamer talk about a utopian society that doesn’t have a high probability of ever existing, but really it is the truth. No one should have to come out of the closet. To sit there with baited breath wondering if you are going to be the worlds most hated person five minutes from now isn’t a rite of passage, it’s a fucking farce. And one that needs to end.

Harvey Milk once said “If a bullet should enter my brain then let that bullet destroy every closet door in the country” it didn’t quite work out that way, though tremendous progress has been made, but perhaps we should not have been so quick to accept that coming out is hard and that’s life.

After all, who said the fight for rights was over?

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