Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Coming Out Again & Again

Today, October 11, is National Coming Out Day. NCOD was created to help bring visibility to the gay & lesbian community through coming out; middle America gets a chance to meet someone gay, find out that gays aren't so odd, after all, and perhaps find gays acceptable.

Gays & lesbians kept silent and invisible until the 1969 Stonewall riots, and ensuing public outings like Pride celebrations. We marched in the streets when our gay brothers and lesbian sisters were attacked or discriminated against, and still do. We pushed politicians to create laws that protected our lives, our jobs, our homes. We forced the billion-dollar healthcare and pharmaceutical industry to treat people with AIDS with decency, and stop gouging us with the price of medication. Gays & lesbians have kicked down the doors of city hall and the White House, and although things are far from perfect for us, they're a damn sight better than they might have been.

Why, we even have gay celebrities. My favorites are the celesbians, celebrity lesbians. Celesbians, like daytime talk show host Ellen Degeneres, and her grilfriend, "Arrested Development" actress Portia De Rossi, continue to enjoy success in mainstream America. Melissa Etheridge's battle with breast cancer, her Grammy appearance, complete with chemo-denuded head, and her visit to the Oprah show, officially made her an everywoman. Showtime's "Queer As Folk" and "The L Word" found huge non-gay audiences, and cable t.v. now has 24-hour gay programming on Logo. We are everywhere, but are all of us everywhere?

Where are Black gays and lesbians? Sure, Logo has aired "The Ski Trip," which features an all-Black cast, and will air a new Black gay series, "Noah's Arc" later this month. But, other than Keith Boykin, former Clinton aide, writer and activist, and the only Black gay candidate on Showtime's "The American Candidate," a reality series that featured a cross section of Americans to run for President, we don't have Black gays or lesbians that can be immediately named, except by, well, other Black gays and lesbians (and not necessarily by all of us).

Where are butch lesbians? Even if our gaydar tells us a celesbian is butch, she'll never let it show. k.d. lang and Lea DeLaria are the only butch butches we see, but where are their careers in relation to Ellen's -- hell, all I have to say is "Ellen" and you know who I'm talking about.

I have the distinction of being a butch Black lesbian. Blacks who criticize comparisons between the capital-letter Civil Rights movement and the lower case gay & lesbian civil rights movement argue (and quite aggressively) that you can't compare the two; one can hide one's sexuality, but not their skin color. What about me? I can't help my very obvious lack of femininity. I can't walk in heels, and I tried for most of my teenage years. My hair suffered from years of abuse from heat and chemicals in an attempt to prettify it. I don't have legs that beg to be shown off by a skirt. And, although I could probably learn how to be girly, I don't want to be. I've found my natural fit, and have no desire to change it. Am I less Black because I'm a lesbian or less vital, interesting, or visible as a lesbian because I'm Black?

As cliche as it seems, coming out is a constant for someone like me. Coming Out Day is nice, and I encourage people to come out, for you never know what courage you've given to someone, or example you've set for some troubled young person. Keep coming out, again and again and again.


Blogger Frederick Smith said...

nice essay. i agree that there's lots of work to be done in elevating our visibility in all areas of society.

1:44 PM  

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