Monday, October 11, 2010

You're Here, You're Queer, I'm Used To It

Today, October 11, 2010 is National Coming Out Day. As has been pointed out, well, everywhere, this is a very important day. I couldn't agree more. Especially in light of the recent rash of tragic stories of anti-gay bullying and the profoundly sad story of NY student Tyler Clementi's suicide, it seems especially important and pertinent to discuss the issues and hardships facing LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender--for those living under a rock) individuals in our society. This day is meant to raise that awareness, and prompt discussion about this topic, and I wholeheartedly support and applaud it. I think it is a wonderful thing, a very necessary thing, and should probably be an official national day. By my reckoning, these issues are a hell of a sight more important than the stupid shit we celebrate nationally now (occasions like Arbor Day and Groundhog Day come to mind), so why the hell not? Sounds good to me.

So, lets get to some of those issues. Or rather, something I said about this that people have taken issue with. I made this comment on Twitter recently:
If you're 'coming out' today, I'm happy for you. Truly, you deserve to be as happy as anyone else. But honestly, I don't really give a crap.'
Now, a lot of people seem to have misunderstood what I meant by this. In looking back at it honestly, I understand how it could have been taken wrong. So let me set the record straight... so to speak.

In a nutshell: If you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT), I care deeply about your rights and freedoms as a LGBT person, but I don't *personally* care about you being LGBT one way or another. Your nature and your choices are irrelevant to me, but your rights in regard to those choices are extremely important to me. I vehemently oppose laws restricting the freedom of homosexuals to marry or serve openly in the US armed forces, and I am appalled by the tragedies described above, but as far as people individually? You're here, you're queer, and I'm totally used to it.

Does that make sense? I hope so. Just in case, perhaps I should explain in more detail.

First, if there is one overriding philosophy that I try to adhere to in my own life, it's "You Don't Fuck With Me, and I Won't Fuck With You."

This philosophy generally informs my outlook on most things in life. Provided that what you are doing does not adversely affect others, do whatever the hell makes you happy, fulfilled, and content, and I will do the same. Everyone on earth should be free to pursue their bliss, whatever it may be, provided it doesn't hurt anyone else. Sounds almost hippie of me, doesn't it?

Second, lately, I have become increasingly annoyed with the overuse and misuse of labels. Labels are necessary to our language as a shorthand, else we would never get anything said, written or done because we would be tripping over ourselves trying to figure out what the hell everyone is talking about. I used the "LGBT" label above for just such a purpose. But labels can be harmful--intentionally and unintentionally--both when applied by other people, and when applied by people to themselves. Certain labels, labels that refer purely to someone's nature--like gay, lesbian, straight, black, white--are, in my opinion, useless and divisive unless you happen to be talking about that specifically. Most of the time, it shouldn't be discussed because the descriptive should usually be irrelevant.

For example, I used the "LGBT" label above because that is the specific topic at hand. I would, however, omit "openly gay" from Talk show host Tammy Bruce's self description as an "openly gay, pro-choice, gun owning, pro-death penalty, Independent Conservative" because to me, the "pro-choice, gun-owning, pro-death penalty" part of that is far more relevant to my opinion of her than the "openly gay" part. Similarly, it would be appropriate to describe someone as black if you were trying to relay a physical description of that person to a friend who had never seen them. It drives me nuts, however, when people make a huge deal out of Barak Obama being a "black president." That means less than nothing to me. I detest Barak Obama because I believe his policies are taking the country in the wrong direction; that has absolutely jack and shit to do with him being black. If Larry Elder ran for president, he'd have my vote in a New York minute.

As one of my favorite bloggers & Twitter personalities, Jen McCreight (@jennifurret), details in her "Setting the Record Straight" post, she has had no small amount of grief during her life with people trying to label her as 'straight,' lesbian,' 'bisexual,' or what have you, and consequently, even more grief over struggling with herself over how she should identify herself. To me, it is deplorable that this very sweet, very intelligent young woman should be made to feel this kind of upset over labeling that--again, to my mind--should be unnecessary. As she eloquently states:
"Eventually I gave up, because all the labels were just silly. I was me. I decided if you want to know who I'm attracted to, you can get to know me instead of judging me from a couple words."
Simple, yet profound. And is this not the ideal for our society? Dealing with and treating people as *people*, not gay people, or black people, or what have you? Getting to know people, evaluating them on who they are, their ideals, their actions? As Morgan Freeman brilliantly and succinctly puts it in this video (in reply to Mike Wallace's question "how are we going to get rid of racism?"):
"Stop talking about it. I'm going to stop calling you a 'white man,' and I'm going to ask you to stop calling me a 'black man.' I know you as Mike Wallace, you know me as Morgan Freeman."
Isn't that a beautiful notion? We're not black people, gay people, white people... just people.

And THIS is what I meant when I said "I don't really give a crap [if you're gay]." In terms of my opinion of someone, what they think and how they act is far more instructive to me than knowing who they prefer to sleep with. I just. don't. care.

Now obviously, this is a bit starry-eyed and simplistic. Things are more complicated in the real world. While I try--I don't always succeed, I'm far from perfect--to live my life according to the ideas above (don't fuck with people who don't fuck with me, and try to see people as people first), clearly, not everyone does, which is why events like today's National Coming Out Day are important and necessary. There is clearly much work to be done in terms of the acceptance of LGBT individuals in our society (much of which is due to stupid religious dogma, but that's another post). And about that, I do, in fact, care.

If you are 'coming out' today, to friends, to family, to your workplace, then I wish you all the best. I can't even begin to guess how difficult that is going to be for some of you. I wish you all my strength. I sincerely and fervently hope that those you are making this admission to react with understanding, sympathy, acceptance, and love. I hope they react as I would, and love you for WHO they know you to be, not a label.

I hope they just don't care.

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