Today is National Coming Out Day. If Ray were still alive, it would also be the day we’d be celebrating the twenty-sixth anniversary of our commitment ceremony (he promised to stay with me for the rest of his life, and he did). My (very-much alive) husband Michael and I don’t have any anniversaries that are close to this date, but this is the twentieth National Coming Out Day we’ve lived together.
I’ve written about why I think it is important that every queer person (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, pansexual, nonbinary, genderfluid, asexual, aromantic, two-spirit, questioning, et cetera) who can safely be out of the closet to do so. Study after study has shown that the more queer friends and acquaintances a straight person has, the more likely they are to support equality for LGBT people. Studies also show that queer and questioning teens and children who have positive queer role models in their community are significantly less likely to attempt suicide than those who don’t.
But it is also important for your own mental and physical health. Being in the closet means living in a constant state of fear. You second guess everything. You’re constantly worried about being rejected by friends or family members if they find out. All that anxiety and stress takes a toll on your mental and physical well-being.
Make no mistake: the fear is real. About 40% of the homeless teens are in that situation because they were kicked out of their homes by their parents when the parents found out they were gay or trans (which is why I advise young people to be very careful about coming out while still financial dependent on their parents). Even if you wait until you are a self-supporting adult (I was 31 years old when I came out), you may still face rejection from people you have loved and counted on your whole life. One of my grandmothers forbade any other family member of mentioning me in her presence. A friend I had thought of as closer than a brother since we were teen-agers was quite angry when I came out and to this day (he happens to be married to a distance relative of mine, so I still hear about him from time to time) insists that I’m going to burn in hell because I’m gay.
But, not everyone reacts that way. And some people will surprise you. One of my aunts who is otherwise quite politically conservative declared that anyone who had a problem with me being gay would have a bigger problem with her. Some people who had been acquaintances that I thought would just shrug and move on became genuinely close friends because coming out to them is an act of making yourself vulnerable—and when they react to that vulnerability with acceptance, that changes the way you perceive each other.
Once I was no longer spending all of that time and energy trying to hide part of myself from anyone, I found that I had more energy and enthusiasm to do the things I love. And when you’re doing that, you meet other people who love some of the things you do. Coming out meant losing (and in some cases evicting) more than a few people from my life. It wasn’t a loss, though, because those people had never loved me for who I was—they liked the mask that I wore when I was closeted. And that’s true even of the relatives who had suspected I was gay for decades and had spent many years praying that god would change me. Those were people who were not adding to my life—their love was conditional, and one of the conditions was that I live a life of fear and without love and intimacy. Separating myself from those people, made room for a much more wonderful and supportive found family.
I was lucky enough to fall in love with a sweet man who loved me back. And after he died, I was lucky again to meet and fall in love with another (though very different) man who loved me back. Being able to love and be loved and not keep that love a secret is something that straight people take for granted that many literally can’t comprehend why being out matters. Once you experienced it, you’ll be amazed at how long you put up with concealing your real self.
So, if it is safe for you to come out, you should. You’ll find that standing out in the light, being true to yourself, is so much better than hiding in the dark!
Oh, and some of you may find this article useful: Trevor Project Releases Coming-Out Handbook for LGBTQ Youth.
Today is my birthday. If you want to know which birthday, let’s just say that I am the only prime number less than 60 and greater than 54, okay? When I was a kid, my birthday was early enough in the school year that I often seemed to catch teachers by surprise. It was late enough in September that, under the rules of the school district we lived in when I turned five years old, I wasn’t allowed to be enrolled until the next year. So I was usually older than the rest of the kids in my class. There were some downsides to that, but also a few upsides.
The other thing that used to be more of an annoyance when I was younger was how crowded the birthdays were among my extended family. I was born 39 days after my Mom’s 17th birthday, and only 6 days before my Dad’s 18th birthday (yes, my parents were 16 years old when they got married!). I was also born 8 days after one of my cousins (the one that has been called my almost twin since we were infants, because when Grandma was babysitting both of us strangers would think we were twins). I was born two weeks before one grandmother’s 38th birthday and ten days after one grandfather’s 40th birthday. Also within a few weeks of my birthday were the birthdays or two uncles, and a whole bunch of other cousins (and demi-cousins, and step-cousins, and cousins-once-removed and so on).
During my teen years, when we lived in the same community as most of my mom’s siblings and other extended family members on her side, from the middle of August through Christmas there were one or two birthdays every single week. And my grandmother on that side (who was emphatically the ruling matriarch of the clan) insisted that everyone needed to show up and celebrate everyone else’s special day. Which didn’t really feel all that special when it was the 6th or 9th extended family get-together of that month, you know? Not that I have a right to complain. My one cousin whose birthday is two days after Christmas would be the first to point out that there are worse times to have one’s birthday than late September.
Which is sort of a convoluted way to say that while I have always enjoyed those times that we have gotten together with a bunch of friends to have a blow-out birthday, I’m also perfectly happy to spend the day lazing around the house, reading, and enjoying the well-wishes from friends; and then celebrating with a dinner with my husband.
But to get back to the cluster of family birthdays and why I mention being a homo in the title of this post: one of the step-cousins I mentioned in passing above had his birthday just a couple of days before mine. He was the step-son of one of my dad’s siblings, and therefore didn’t join the family until I was about 11 years old. When I was in middle school he was in college, and whenever we were visiting his family, or if his family came to visit the grandparents (and therefore we all had to show up for at least part of the visit), he always found a way to tell me that I was a freak.
By which I mean he would literally say, “You are such a freak!” or “God, you really are an over-educated freak, aren’t you?” He only called me a faggot to my face once that I recall, but years later I learned that my aunt (his step-mother at the time) was constantly admonishing him for calling me a faggot while talking about me with other family members. And I want to emphasize here, he was 20 years old and when I was 13—so this wasn’t a child being cruel to another child, but rather someone who supposedly was an adult being cruel to a child. Anyway, it should come as no surprise that I didn’t shed any tears when said aunt divorced his father when I was in high school. I thought I would never have to deal with his nonsense for the rest of my life, right?
Well, now we live in a world that includes Facebook. I typically log in to Facebook no more than about once or twice a month, and only then because for some family members I care about, Facebook is the only way to reliably get news about what’s happening in their lives. And so a couple weeks back when I logged in to ping some of my fellow Seahawks fans, what did I find but a friend request from this jerk…
Now, to be fair, he wasn’t the only person during my childhood who found ways to point out that I didn’t conform to societal expectations. I spent most of my childhood trying to figure out why so many of my classmates, public school teachers, Sunday School teachers, and pastors thought that there was something wrong with me. Specifically, why so many classmates, teachers, adult relatives, and at least one pastor kept calling me a “pussy,” “sissy,” “homo,” “faggot,” “weirdo,” et al. Once puberty hit in full force, I finally knew and all of that energy was redirected to trying to convince myself that I wasn’t gay, but that somehow I could thread the needle between my sexual orientation and the expectations of both society at large and the evangelical church in specific.
So, he wasn’t really that much of an outlier among the folks I had to deal with back then, but still, I look at that friend request and have to ask, “Why?” Because when I look at his timeline, it is all pro-NRA and pro-Trump memes. Therefore I can’t imagine that he is reaching out to apologize and say that he wishes he had been more supportive of my non-conformities when I was a kid. Maybe he is, but even looking at his current photos all that comes to mind is all of those times he called me a freak and how he used to disparage me to other family members. So, no, I am not going to accept his friend request.
I spent too much time as a child, teen, and young adult trying to accommodate haters like him. As an adult, I’ve forged a life with friends who love me and accept me (even though I am far from perfect) for who I am. I don’t feel any need to make time for people who couldn’t do that when they had the chance.
I usually end my birthday posts with some words of wisdom about some lesson I have learned. This year I’ve going to paraphrase/mangle Harvey Fierstein:
There is nothing you need more from other people than love and respect. Anyone who couldn’t give you that when they had a chance, doesn’t deserve a place in your life.
Frequently, Bisexual Awareness Week is the same week as my birthday, so I had been planning a post about bi-erasure, the importance of bi visibility, and so forth for next week. Then I saw a link on a newsblog that this week is it.
I often quote the study completed by the Centers for Disease control in the early 90s whose conclusions included the line, “Americans would rather admit to being heroin addicts than being bisexual.” I’m not bisexual, but my husband is. A lot of people leap to the conclusion that because he’s a man married to another man that he is gay. He’s not. A have several other friends who are bisexual who have ended up in long-term relationships with opposite sex partners and people assume that that means they are straight. They aren’t. And that’s just one aspect of bi-erasure.
One of the reasons I take bi erasure a bit personally is my husband: I love him, and being bisexual is part of who he is. It’s not that I only love his “gay half” (as if that even existed), I love all of him. Because he’s awesome.
I have to admit that another reason I take it personally is because I owe bisexual people an apology, because I’m one of those gay guys who—during the time I was struggling with coming out of the closet—lied and said I was bi. I was lying to myself at least as much as I was lying to anyone else, but it was a lie. It wasn’t a transitional phase on my way to being gay. The complicated forces of internalized homophobic and the tremendous social pressure that defines adulthood, in part, on getting married to a person of the opposite sex and starting a family cause us to do some stupid things. And unfortunately, the existence of exclusively gay or lesbian people who falsely identified as bisexual for a time while struggling with their identity contributes to another aspect of bi-erasure.
Bisexual (and pansexual) visibility is important. There are people out there—many of them young people—who aren’t out yet. They may be struggling with even understanding what their sexuality is. And the more examples they can see of adults of all sexualities — bi, pan, ace, gay, lesbian, queer — the more they will know that they aren’t alone and that they can have a future full of love.
And that means that the rest of us in the queer community need to do what we can to make our bi+ siblings feel welcome in queer spaces. If someone tells you they are bi, believe them. Don’t argue with them. Don’t tell them that they may feel differently later. Recognize that they are trusting you with information that makes them vulnerable, and be the kind of ally you wish your straight friends and family members had been for you when you came out.
The Boston police department contingent sent out to prevent violence outnumbers the straight pride idiots… and the cops are greatly outnumbered by the counter-protesters. You can find details here: Here’s what’s unfolding at Boston’s ‘Straight Pride’ event – Well, surprise surprise — it’s basically a pro-Trump rally featuring Milo Yiannopoulos. Also: Tens March In Straight Pride Parade.Since I opined on this whole topic just a few days ago, I’m not sure if I want to say more. Other than to point out that the so-called Straight Pride Parade’s grand marshal, Milo Yiannopoulos, should only be remembered for when he cheerfully explained how beneficial it is to gay boys to be sexually molested by adults.
I realize the purpose of the event is to troll and get attention. But the old adage about not feeding the trolls is just like the useless advice that some adults give bullied kids: if you don’t react, they’ll stop bullying you. That advice is useless because the bully gets just as much enjoyment from the laughter of the bystanders as he does from any reaction of the target. So ignoring them completely isn’t what works. We have to counter lies with truth. But I don’t need to repeat myself, especially when this article explains why straight pride isn’t needed: On Eve of Straight Pride, Equal Rights Group Debunks ‘Heterophobia’.
In other news: Another Ex-Gay Torture Leader Denounces Movement. It’s a story some of us have heard a thousand times: bullied gay kid growing up in a religious family tries to pray his gay away, becomes involved in an ex-gay ministry, leads a double life pretending to be straight while secretly pursuing illicit relationships, and now he wants to apologize and admit he was gay all along.
Except McKrae Game didn’t just become involved in an ex-gay ministry: he helped found one, and did a lot of the (hypocritical) counseling himself.
Listen, I do feel sorry for Game’s younger self. I get it. I, too, was raised in Southern Baptist churches. I was teased and bullied at school and at church as a child because people thought I was gay. I prayed and cried and pleaded with god for years. And also, similarly to this guy, when I confessed to a good friend (who happened to be a young woman) that I thought I might be gay, I let myself be talked into giving a different orientation a try. Yes, I got married to a woman and then eventually divorced and came out.
So I certainly understand the sort of self-destructive toxic self-loathing that drives a queer person to try not to be queer.
I never claimed to be straight. The lie I tried to live for a few years wasn’t much better, because I wasn’t bisexual any more than I was straight. But I didn’t try to tell other gay people that they could be cured. I didn’t found an organization that wouldn’t just spread that lie, but would sell the lie to other struggling queer people.
And maybe I just lucked out in that the first person I confessed my fear aloud to wasn’t anti-gay. Maybe I just lucked out that the attempts by family and church to intervene in my teen life weren’t as forceful and sustained as one of my cousins was subjected to.
But the thing that I keep coming back to with guys like McKrae Game is: it became his job to do this harmful and ineffective “treatment.” I said some pretty shitty things when I was a teen-ager and younger, trying to deflect people’s suspicions. I owe some people that I will likely never see again apologies for that.
But this guy charged the people he was lying to. Like other ex-gay leaders, he made people pay him for the lies he was telling. And some of those people killed themselves because praying didn’t make their feelings go away.
In the article he seems to understand that:
“Most people in the gay community have treated me ridiculously kind,” Game said, “liking me for me now and not who I was. And I hope they just give me the chance to talk to them so I can hear them out and apologize.”
Game said he realizes that for many an apology won’t be enough. And that he’ll likely be apologizing for the rest of his life.
Yes, yes he will.
Enough about that. Let’s close with this bit from June, when Stephen Colbert commented on the Straight Pride when the group first applied for their permit:
Stephen Colbert: What The ‘Straight Pride’ Parade Won’t Have:
(If embedding doesn’t work, click here.)
One such group failed to secure a permit in Modesto, California earlier this month. The video of their leader arguing at a city council meeting for why they should be allowed to have the event went viral because, after countless times earlier insisting that they weren’t white nationalist, nor white supremacists, nor otherwise racist, he angrily said, “we’re a totally peaceful racist group!”
The council didn’t grant the permit, though I should point out the reason why was not the slip of the tongue. The groups, because of the connection several of them have to those hate rallies I mentioned earlier, had been unable to obtain the necessary insurance coverage required for a parade or similar public event. The slip of the tongue was just icing on the cake.
Despite not getting a permit to shut down traffic, the group vowed to hold an event anyway. And this weekend they did: Modesto protesters outnumber straight pride supporters at tense but peaceful rally. Outnumbered is putting it mildly: California’s ‘Straight Pride’ aimed to celebrate straight, white Christians. Only 12 people attended — They faced 200 pro-LGBTQ counter-protesters “standing together to reject this group and what they represent”.
About a dozen proud bigots showed up for an event at a rented barn—which was cut short when the owners of the venue saw their hateful signs and other things. Then the 12 proud bigots walked to a nearby Planned Parenthood clinic (which was closed) and they chanted various slogans that, oddly enough, didn’t have anything to do with being straight. I mean, I suppose the anti-gay slogan kind of count. And the pro-Trump signs I suppose could be argued to be about the straightness of a philandering twice-divorced man who, by his own admission, loves to grab women by the pussy. But, um, I don’t quite get what the Build the Wall chants had to do with straight pride. Sounds like could old-fashioned racist xenophobia.
About 200 counter-protestors, on the other hand, showed up to express support for queer rights and to denounce hate. And while apparently some angry shouting happened at one point, no actual violence broke out.
We know that this is just a gimmick. The real straight pride happens 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year. It has never been illegal to be straight anywhere. It has never been legal to fire people because they are straight anywhere. Straight children aren’t shamed and bullied in schools for being straight. It has never been illegal in any country in the world for opposite-sex couples to marry. No one calls for a boycott of a television network when a male character goes out on a date with a female character on any television show. No local television stations refuse to broadcast a specific episode of a show because of the inclusion of a marriage between a man and a woman.
And if straight people think that they don’t have a holiday, go take a look at how many Hallmark Channel movie listings during Thanksgiving and Christmas time have a straight romance as the central plot. Heck, how many times does a kiss between an opposite-sex couple at the stroke of Midnight on New Year’s Eve figure into romance movies?
And let’s not forget Heteroween — a holiday that once did belong to the queers, but y’all took it away with all those sexy mummy and sexy nurse and sexy fireman and sexy pirate costumes that are sold in pairs that result in a clothed-male/nearly-nude-female. Please note, the only problem I have with straight people co-opting our fabulous holiday this way is that they don’t do it equitably. It shouldn’t just be the ladies in those straight couples showing off some skin. I mean, c’mon, isn’t the point of being a straight studly man that woman want your sexy body?
If straight people don’t want to embrace the values of throwing off sexual repression and insist that they are all about family values, I have a quibble about that, too: Straight Pride organizer criticized by her gay son for planning ‘straight, white, Christian’ event .
Maybe instead of attacking the rights and freedoms of their neighbors, co-workers, and even their own children, they should put a little more time into asking themselves why queer people make them so uncomfortable. A little self-reflection would do far more good than staging these white supremacist events masquerading as straight pride.
I have written so many times about the self-loathing closet case former anti-gay Congress-person Aaron Shock. Seriously. Many time. Many, many, MANY times. Among all of these stories about this self-loathing closet case who voted for numerous laws in congress that hurt his fellow queers, we also had to deal with his violation of campaign finance law, which eventually let him to not seek re-election and focus on trying to get out of the criminal prosecution. Which, damn it, he mostly did evade.
Then, as a former anti-gay congressperson with a lot of personal life connections that indicated he was a flaming hypocrite, he started turning up on a bunch of news sites. The stories had a sad semblance: people would post pictures or videos of the easily recognized former congressman hanging out at gay events, or kissing and groping other men at gay events, or shoving money into the g-strings of gay male strippers at gay event, and the other people hanging out with the self-loathing closet case who had inflicted immeasurable damage on other gay people would get called out about hanging out with the evil guy, and they’d try to explain how they didn’t know who he was…
It was just a mess.
Recently, there have been indications that the self-loathing closet case wanted to come out and regenerate his political career. It began a couple months ago with a story I missed: Aaron Schock: ‘We Each Have Our Own Journey’. There are some follow up stories at Kenneth In the 212 that fill in some of the blanks, but the short version is: a guy messaged Schock to commiserate about how Schock’s antics at the festival above were covered in the news (and to hit on him). They wound up having a text conversation.
Then, some weeks later for no apparent reason, the guy shared screen caps.
Turns out, the second guy had been asked to “leak” the conversation by Schock himself. Leaking it in June didn’t have much of an effect. Until earlier this month, when some other news sites found that post and started reporting it. And most gay bloggers and news sites who covered the story it did not comment very favorably on Schock’s poor little rich Republican spin on coming out.
So the purposed of the “leaked” text conversation was to see if the blogosphere would react sympathetically to the idea that, hey, his perfect anti-gay voting record in Congress and all those speeches about homosexuals being abominations and employers should have the right to fire someone even if they only suspect they are gay all happened before he came out of the closet. Therefore, we shouldn’t hold it against him.
He was trying really hard to imply that it wasn’t just that he was in the closet, but he actually didn’t know he was gay back then. Of course, we know that is false because of the time a reporter found him having sex in a shower with his supposed roommate, among other things. Because that stuff is out there, I think he knows he can’t explicitly claim that he just didn’t know he was gay.
None of us are buying the closet as an excuse. So then he backtracked and claimed the guy didn’t have permission to share the screen caps after all…
…and then, this happened: Homocon Columnist: Unhinged, Intolerant Gay Leftists Are Committing A “Digital Lynching” Of Aaron Schock. That’s right, we’re the bad guys. I should note that I have not linked to the angry columnist’s op ed piece directly, but rather to an excerpt with commentary from Joe.My.God. As Joe notes, the writer of the op-ed has previously written about how unfair it is that most gay men won’t date or have sex with trump-supporting gay men. Boo-hoo!
Note that this op-ed just casually refers to Schock as gay and out as if it is old news. And Schock started sharing the op-ed the same day it came out. So it appears that this is Schock’s new tactic for coming out. To get someone else to whine about the pain that somehow we have caused Schock and his family.
If Aaron Schock’s family feels humiliated because of photos like the ones at the top of this post and the comments that many of us out queer people have made about them, that is entirely Aaron’s fault. None of us force him to kiss that guy. None of us forced him to shove his hands down that guy’s pants. None of us forced him to go to a gay bar and put money in a stripper’s g-string.
None of us forced him to run for Congress. None of us forced him to vote against every gay rights bill that came up while he was there. None of us forced him to sponsor bills to take rights away from gays while he was there. None of us forced him to make those speeches. That was all on him.
We also didn’t force him to illegally transfer campaign funds to his personal accounts. We didn’t force him to submit false mileage reimbursement forms to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars. We didn’t force him to take his boy toy on trips paid for by the taxpayer and his campaign donors by pretending said boy toy (who kept posing in official photos with Aaron) was the campaign photographer. (Hint: the photographer should be behind the camera, but standing next to the congressman like one of the congress spouses.) All of that is on him.
And to both Schock and Mr Polumbo (who wrote that whiney op-ed): it’s not the fact that we have different politics that makes us unwilling to embrace you within our community. Nor is it merely that you voted for Trump. It’s your willingness to support racist, misogynist, homophobic policies. It’s your votes to take rights away from queer people. It’s your willingness to support an administration that is implementing genocidal policies at the border, taking medical care away from your fellow citizens, taking rights away from queer and trans people, transferring massive amounts of wealth from working class people to billionaire, and encouraging white nationalists to terrorize your fellow citizens.
The fact that you can do all of those things while also being a member of one of the marginalized communities that is a feeling the pain of these things you support is just the cherry on top of this horrible, disgusting dish you are offering up.
We’re not the unhinged ones. The fact that you can’t see how unhinged the policies you support are disgusts us.
One last thing: before anyone brings up the tired old saw about outing people, go read this: Aaron Schock and the Politics of Outing – A blogger was banned from Twitter after posting shots from a video allegedly featuring former congressman Aaron Schock. The deeper debate should be around sexuality and hypocrisy.
Aaron Schock is a public figure and was an elected official who actively caused measurable harm to my community. I have both a Constitutional and moral right to comment upon his actions. And I believe that all journalists bear an ethical imperative to report about hypocritical activities of all elected officials.
If you are somehow unaware of the racist thing Trump tweeted this last weekend, and the doulbing-down and defending of the words that has happened, I’m not going to sum them up. The salient facts are here: Congresswomen say Trump’s ‘openly racist’ attack is a distraction. And I agree with U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib that the purpose of those tweets is not really to attack the congresswomen in question, but rather to get all the news sites to stop talking about the illegal inhuman camps that our government is packing children and adults into at the border: Migrant children report sex assault, retaliation for protests at border facility and Mike Pence Toured a ‘Horrendous’-Smelling Detention Center Where Migrants Were Packed in Cages.
And what comes to the top of many of the google searches I did looking for recent stories on the camp situation were people arguing about terminology. It doesn’t matter whether you think that the camps meet a particularly carefully cherry-picked definition of concentration camp: the conditions in the camps violate U.S. law and international treaties; locking people who present themselves at a border and ask for sanctuary is illegal; it is not illegal for people to present themself at a border and ask for sanctuary; the treatment of the children in particular is immoral, unethical, illegal, and appalling.
Call them Detention Centers if you must, but they are still illegal, they are as immoral as any historical Concentration Camp, and you should be ashamed of yourself for not caring what happens to any fellow human beings, but especially children.People who want to discriminate against others get really angry when you call what they are doing discriminate, despite that fact that a couple of years ago some of them made this argument at the Supreme Court: White House: We’d Be Fine With Bakers Hanging “No Gays” Signs In Their Windows. The weird part is, that in many states they can do just that. They are free to both discriminate against queer people and even put up signs in their shop windows saying so, and yet, virtually none of them do. And here’s why:
I commented on the weekend about the poorly written, nasty, inappropriate op-ed that The New Republic published about presidential hopeful Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and then removed for the site while listing a lame apology. While it was roundly condemned by straight people and queer people alike—and even some publications that no one would describe as gay-friendly—we have now reached the point where certain queer journalists are falling all over themselves to defend it. They are really leaning into the fact that several of the critics of the original piece saying that portions of it come off as homophobic. The counter argument is that, since the author of the piece, Dale Peck, is himself gay, the thing he wrote can’t possibly be homophobic. One particular op-ed that lots of people are linking to agrees that the piece was rude, and that it demonstrates a part of gay culture that many queer people are uncomfortable with, but insists it isn’t at all reasonable to describe it as homophobic because not only is Peck a gay man, but he was a gay man who was active in Act Up back in the day (which apparently means he can’t be homophobic), and the piece is simply a case of “reading” which has a long tradition in queer culture. The author of the defense piece also made the assertion that it was only straight people who were objecting, and clearly as straight people they don’t have a right to call out homophobia(?).
They want to quietly and discreetly refuse to serve individual customers who happen to be gay without their other customers finding out. They wanna hate on the down low because they know that customers who may not be gay themselves—people who know and love LGBT people, customers who don’t approve of discrimination on principal, other minorities who worry that they could be next—will take their business elsewhere.
In case you don’t know, reading in this context is usually defined as the act of pointing out a flaw in someone else (usually publicly and addressed directly to them) and exaggerating it in a humorous way. It’s that last bit—that the exaggeration needs to be funny that I first complain about—because I didn’t find it any of it funny. And while, yes, reading is a tradition in parts of the queer community, it still is an ad hominem attack, which only belongs in political analysis if one is offering proof of several character flaws or harmful ideologies. In other words, if the piece had called Mayor Pete a bigot of some sort and offered up some evidence to back it up, then maybe doing so in the reading-style would have been appropriate. But that isn’t what happened.
So, since these folks think that only straight people object, let me be clear: I’m a gay man. I see Peck’s Act Up crendentials and raise my own Queer Nation involvement. I found the use of phrase “Mary Pete” over and over homophobic. The rest of the essay is a mess—badly written, the opposite of persuasive, and one long ad hominem attack—and The New Republic was right to pull it (and shouldn’t have published it in the first place).
Dan Savage has said many times that queer people have the right to throw slurs back and forth at each other so long as they meet this criteria: “so long as it’s used affectionately and ironically and so long as the term is embraced by the user and so long as it isn’t tossed around in front of strangers and so long as it isn’t used as an insult…”
- Peck was not using the term Mary Pete affectionately nor ironically,
- There is no indication Mayor Pete embraces the term “mary,”
- This use of the slur wasn’t just tossed around in front of strangers, it was written specifically to be published in a publication whose target audience is the general public,
- It was definitely intended as an insult.
So this queer man has absolutely no problem calling b.s. on these attempts to spin one bitter gay man’s homophobic attempt to read (and if this was reading, oh, it so missed the mark) another gay man for not being the right kind of gay as anything other than it was.
There is an argument to be made that some of Mayor Pete’s policy proposals are further to the right of center than both most Democratic voters and the country as a whole. One can legitimately critique the tepid response he had to a recent incident of a person of color being killed by police in the town of which he is mayor. And I want to point out that even Peck’s defenders aren’t certain if these were the sorts of things he was trying to imply in his essay.
But vulgar speculation about his sexual desires and practices (which was what most of the so-called “reading” was about) doesn’t belong in a opinion piece published on a serious political news site. Yeah, if you’re sitting with your friends in the local queer bar tossing back drinks and gossiping about people, that sort of commentary may get you some laughs. But it isn’t how you educate voters about issues you disagree with him about.
Last weekend we watched part of the Parade before slipping into the Pride Festival. I took a lot of pictures, but most of them aren’t that interesting in retrospect. I was usually trying to get a picture or a cool costume or a neat t-shirt, et cetera. Because I’m vertically challenged and we were trying to keep me in the shade, while I could see the parade, I was doing a lot of looking between people’s heads, which makes it difficult to get good pictures.Because we walked to the Parade route from the Locus Awards Hotel, where ever we wind up watching the Parade will be close to the end of the route. We’ve previously found spots that were far enough from the end that we only had to see and hear the God Hates Fags people for a short time, as they usually walk down the length of the route before the official start of the parade, with a police escort. I’ve written before about why I think this is wrong, so won’t go into it here.
This year, we were much closer to the end, and it turns out that when the haters get to that point, they leave the route and assemble near the places where police have set up to maintain roadblocks and such. And they keep spouting their hate over megaphones for a long, long time. And have all their hateful signs.
Here’s where I repeat that I believe in free speech and the right of people to protest. But I believe in treating each other with respect, believe that science and demonstrable fact trump groundless claims and disprovable convictions (no matter how sincere). I also despise hypocrisy and misattribution. So, while I think they have a right to counter-protest the parade, I also believe that shouting hate and disinformation into a megaphone in a public space is barbaric and unproductive behavior.And it is misinformation. They had multiple megaphones but took turns (I’m presuming because of battery issues and to give vocal cords a rest?). two of the guys kept claiming that Jesus said that all “you homos and lesbos and trannies and other faggots” were going to burn in the lake of fire. “You will spend eternity in Hell, you workers of iniquity!” And that is fundamentally a lie. It’s multiple lies. First, Jesus never once said a single word about homosexuality. Comb through the gospels as much as you like, and you will find not a single mention. Second, the only time he talked about people going to eternal punishment, he was talking about people who claimed to be Christian but didn’t follow his teaching (Matthew 25:42-46). And the phrase “workers of iniquity” is from a passage where Jesus was talking about people who preach falsely in his name (Matthew 7:21-23). Fortunately, someone showed up dressed as Jesus with a counter-sign. I have to really zoom in to one of the pictures I took trying to catch him.
The Satanic Church showed up with pro-gay signs, to surround the main group of anti-gay folks and block their signs. That seemed to drive most of them off, leaving one guy with a sign and megaphone. I will say that he tried to talk more calmly and didn’t just hurl slurs at people. But at one point the last anti-gay protestor was surrounded by the Satanic Church people and a bunch of folks wearing the trans flag as a cape, and they had parasols they were holding up so no one could see his sign. Even he eventually gave up and walked away.The festival was fun. I like seeing all the different kinds of us that are there. Between us, we each found a t-shirt at one of the booths we wanted to buy, but they didn’t have the one Michael wanted in his size. Michael found two variants of Pride flags that I didn’t have, so we grabbed those. It was wonderful seeing a bunch of women wearing “Free Mom Hugs” t-shirts. Then at one point I was sitting somewhere resting (and taking pictures) while he went looking for some lemonade. He came back and asked me if I knew there was a queer gamers/comics fan mini con in the pavilion. There, inside an air conditioned space were two publishers that specialize in queer comics and related books, plus gaming companies, some artists, and a bunch of arcade style games. One of the publishers, Northwest Press, is a company I frequently buy stuff from at Geek Girl Con, so I was on the mailing list, and only after we went in did I remember that I had seen an email from them with a subject line about looking for them at Pride.
It was a good day. I got to see and applaud some cool Parade entries. I got to smile and say “Happy Pride” to a huge number of complete strangers. And contrary to what the guys with the megaphones were shouting at us, the main reason we’re at Pride isn’t to revel in our supposed sins, it is to celebrate the fact that we’re alive and thriving despite the efforts of the haters. To paraphrase the meme I shared earlier: it isn’t about who we have sex with, it’s about the fact that we have survived the taunting and gaslighting and yelling and bashing and shaming. We’re celebrating the fact that we’re tough enough to walk out in public with our true selves fully on display. And that’s why the most of the crowd kept laughing at the haters and the nonsense they spewed on their portable sound systems. We’ve spent years surviving far worse than what they can dish out in a single afternoon, and we’re realized that we are strong enough to stand on our own feet, while all they have is hot air.
And here’s something to think about the next time you see those haters. A blogger who goes by Riot Grrl Dyke was once a child of those haters who was taken to Pride by her parents to try to confront the sinners. RiotGrrlDyke has this to say about Pride:
I’ll never forget my first pride.
I can’t remember my actual age, but it was in the range of 10 to 13 I think. my parents had dragged me to a Pride festival, and walked across the street from the main event, across where the lines were drawn, to where a sea of people in red shirts that read “god has a better way” tried to drown out the celebration with speakers blasting christian music, and shouting and loud praying.
the leaders pulled all us kids to the side and gave us the spiel. they told us how the rainbow had been stolen from us, and that these people were tricked by the devil and just needed prayer, but that if we didn’t save them, they were going to hell.
I rolled my eyes because I already didn’t believe in god, and although I barely knew what being gay was, I knew my parents were usually on the Wrong side of things, and I shouldn’t be siding with them.
“We aren’t allowed over there if we’re wearing the red shirts,” the leaders told us, “so we’re sending people over in secret without them so you can pass out tracts and pray for people. they won’t talk to us, but they’ll talk to the kids. does anyone want to volunteer?”
the people in red shirts disgusted me. the people on the other side of the line were cheering and having fun. I raised my hand.
we were supposed to go in groups with young adults, to make sure we were doing what we were supposed to be. I wandered off the minute I could and stood nervously at the edge of a crowd, watching on as people went by, happy and unbothered by the protests across the street. I felt a little pride myself in tricking the protestors into giving up a witness spot to me, when I was going to smile on and think profanities at god instead.
there was an older woman standing outside the crowd too. she asked if I was here with anyone, a girlfriend maybe? I said no, my parents were across the street. she nodded, and said she was here with her kid. a daughter, that she came to support, but couldn’t keep up with in the crowd.
I almost cried. I told her how amazing that was, because I couldn’t imagine my mother showing support like that to me over anything, much less something as serious as Being Gay. I imagined if I was gay, and at a pride event just like now, but this time because I Belong.
I knew automatically that my mother, without a doubt, would still be in the same place, across the street.
I got hungry after a bit, and tried to find a good food truck. I had a little money and I was unused to being on my own like this, but I didn’t want to go back to the Other Side. I knew now without a shadow of a doubt, this was the Good side and that was the Bad side.
as I was eating the gyro I got, there was a stream of red shirted protestors trickling through; I had reached the end of the boundaries, and the protestors were allowed in here. I backed up a little, spotting my dad among them. I didn’t want him to tell me to go back.
there was a line of women closing ranks around the Pride attendees, separating them from the protesters as they walked through. they spread their arms out and told every person the protesters spoke to that they were not obligated to respond, they could walk away and not engage.
my dad spotted me back, and made a beeline over. he couldn’t cross over because a butch lesbian stood between us. I didn’t know what those words meant, but I never forgot the buttons she was wearing.
he tried to tell me that it was time to go. “you’re not obligated to speak to him,” the butch said, cutting him off and edging further between us. I smiled at her, a little in wonderment. no one had ever told me that I didn’t have to speak to my parents, or do anything other than blindly obey them. I watched my dad get held behind a line by a woman half his height, with no intention on letting him get to me, and I smiled and walked away.
I didn’t have a clue who I was then, and I wouldn’t for a good few years to come. but I never forgot the supportive mother, who symbolized to me everything a mother should be, that mine, for all her religious self righteousness, would never hold a candle to. I never forgot that she was the person I wanted to be, and my mother was the person I did not want to be.
I never forgot the butch who stood between me and my dad, and for the first time ever, put the idea in my head that I was ALLOWED to make my own choices in my beliefs, and made me feel protected in a way I hadn’t known I needed.
the image of her standing between me and my dad, being a physical barrier to protect me against any potential threat, that inspired the image of who I admired and wanted to become. it inspired the version of me who could stand up to my dad – to the point that I could hold my ground and educate him enough that over a decade later, he walked side by side with me at a pride festival, with no intent of witnessing to or condemning anybody.
pride month may be over, but the impact this month and these events can have is so damn important. I became who I am because of two people I met at a pride festival. I’ll never forget.
So it started with a long-time fandom friend quote-tweeting a request for those of us who are queer to tell him what age we were when we realized we weren’t straight. The simple question kicked off thousands of likes and hundreds of replies. Skimming through the many stories people tell while answering the question is both interesting and occasionally moving.I gave a simple reply: “Spring at the end of fifth grade-puberty hit like a freight train. I was just four months shy of my 12th birthday.” That answer is both true, and incomplete. Like many people, I knew that I was different from an extremely early age. As long as I can remember people were calling me various slurs for homosexual. I could never figure out why I was unable to act like a “normal boy,” but most of the people I knew made it very clear that something was wrong with me.
When I was four years old I made the mistake of describing a neighbor friend as my “boyfriend”—not because I had a crush on him, but because I mistakenly thought that a boyfriend was a friend who happens to be a boy, while a girlfriend was a friend who happened to be a girl. My grandmother had a hissy fit, and went on a bit of a tirade about how little boys could have girlfriends, and when we got older we would find a special girlfriend and marry them and have children and spend the rest of our lives with them. And I knew down to the bone that she was wrong, but I didn’t have to conceptual framework to explain it even to myself.
Unlike a lot of people in the replies to the original question, I knew homosexuals existed. Growing up in Southern Baptist churches I had heard many a sermon about the sexual perversions of the homosexuals. So I knew that when all of those people were calling me those names what they meant. I didn’t connect that certainty I had had when grandma was talking about my future with the evil beings described in the sermons. While I knew, in theory, what romance and sex were, I didn’t recognize the feelings I was having. I know now, for instance, that I had crushes on certain fictional male characters and actors from a very early age, but I didn’t know that the reason I so admired Mark Goddard or Robert Conrad was that I had a crush.
And I also was certain I couldn’t be gay because for most of grade school my best friend (at each of the towns we moved to) was usually a girl. Heck, some of the adults in my life referred to those best friends as my girlfriend (of which I knew the correct meaning by then). So, clearly, I liked girls, right? So I couldn’t be any of those things people called me.
And since I had been taught at church and Sunday School that homosexuals were evil and going to hell—that homosexual people were so evil that god destroyed two whole cities of them in the old testament—I desperately wanted not to be a homosexual.
Fifth grade was when everything changed. I had a growth spurt that involved literal growing pains. I was crying at night from the aches, particularly in the knees, often enough that my parents took me to the doctor. The doctor noticed my “high water” pants right away, and noted that I’d grown 4 or 5 inches in height (according to the chart) since my previous visit. During the exam he also commented on hair that was growing on parts of my body, and made some comments about other changes that might happen soon, which mostly just embarrassed me at the time.
A few months after that I woke up in the middle of the night again, though this time no pain was involved. I had a dream about kissing a boy i knew from school, and simultaneously experienced my first orgasm. I spent the rest of the night silently praying, begging god not to let me be a homo.
The next day at school was when I realized that I had a bit of an obsession with how the same boy’s butt looked in the Levi jeans he always wore. And I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I couldn’t stop looking at him.
He wasn’t one of my friends. He wasn’t one of the guys at school that I actively disliked, either. But once I had recognized the effect he was having on me, I started actively trying to avoid him. Which seemed to make the obsession worse. That was a pattern for most of the next 14 years: I would get a crush on some guy, I’d pray that god would take the feelings away and I’d try to avoid contact with them, which would only make it worse and I’d wind up crying and praying even more fervently late into the night.
I want to emphasize that I was never sexually molested as a child. I had had no sexual experiences of any kind with anyone before the night of the dream when I was eleven years old. I later had some experiences with guys my age starting around the age of 14. They were always furtive and scary and left me more convinced I was going to burn in hell for eternity.
After my parents divorced, Mom, my full sister, and I moved 1200 miles away to a town that was large enough that there was more than one high school. And I got involved with an interdenominational teen choir—where I still more than occasionally got called those slurs, but I also made a lot more friends than I had ever had before. And I didn’t have sex with any guys for three years. I even dated some girls. Okay, so two of them came out as lesbian years later, but I was trying!
The feelings, including developing crushes on guys, never stopped during that time. Despite my prayers (and the weekly special prayer meetings Mom, my aunt, and some of the church ladies were having to try to pray my gay away that I didn’t know about at the time). I would also learn later that one of the reasons that I wasn’t given leadership or musical positions I tried for in the choir was because the director was also convinced I was gay. Which just got worse when a couple of guys in the group got caught having sex. I’ve written about the hypocritical response to that previously.
It wasn’t until I was 24 years old that I was able to say, “I think I might be gay” to a close friend. The truth was, I didn’t merely think I might be, I was quite certain. But even then, I internalized enough of the self-loathing and fear that I couldn’t quite admit it, and grasped at the slimmest of straws that it might not be so. It was more than 6 years after that before I would publicly come out.
I never decided to be gay. The only decision I made was to stop hiding who I was. I didn’t always know that I was gay, but for as long as I can remember I have been. I didn’t have the context or role models as a child to know what those feelings meant, and the strong and constant condemnation from family and church gave me plenty of incentive to ignore the implications until they became undeniable.
One of the reasons I talk up the importance of Pride is because we need to be seen. There are children out there who feel the way I did when I was four years old and grandma was emphatically explaining her vision of my future. They need to know they aren’t alone. They need to know that kids like them can grow up and find love. They need to know that kids like them can grow up to be old white-haired fogeys like me and have a job, a home, a spouse, and a host of friends who love and support them.
The need to know that if they aren’t straight, they are still worthy of love.