“It’s only love. What’s everyone scared of?” from the movie Get Real
From time to time I hear straight people express how while they have nothing against “the gays,” they just wish “they wouldn’t be so in my face about it.” Often people wonder why members of the GLBT community feel that coming out is such a big deal.
It makes sense they wouldn’t understand the importance. They don’t have a closet they’re forced to live in. We hear a lot about white privilege, but there is a healthy amount of hetero privilege most people don’t realize.
- You don’t have to worry your family will disown you because you’re straight. From the time you enter into this world, it’s assumed you are heterosexual, that you will grow up, marry, and bear children.
- If you’re heterosexual, you have no fear of being fired for being straight. In the US, few states offer any discrimination protection if you’re nonhetero, and the federal government offers none.
- You and your chosen partner can hold hands while strolling in the park or even sit on the park bench or lay in the grass and lock lips without being in fear for your life.
- Unlike a family made up of 2 dads or 2 moms, you can go to the public pool without even thinking of being kicked out because of what makes up your family.
- If you and your unmarried partner decide to have a baby together, both of you will be allowed to have your names placed on the birth certificate, and you instantly have parental rights.
- If you are a woman in a heterosexual relationship and you are being abused, the police will generally act on the issue of domestic violence, even if you don’t want them to. Good luck if you’re a same-sex couple!
- When you go to the movies or watch TV, almost every show has a character or couple that represents something similar to your life. Few shows have any gay characters, and if they do, they are generally treated stereotypically and incomplete, i.e., you often won’t see them in kiss, in bed together, etc., as you will see hetero couples portrayed.
- In most of the states in the US and in most countries in the world, you can marry almost anyone you choose, sometimes even your first cousin. By making that decision and entering into that social agreement, you automatically receive almost 2000 benefits the rest of us cannot in the US.
- As a couple, you are allowed to foster or adopt in every state in the US (although at least 1 state requires you to be married).
- Until recently only you had the ability to serve your country in the military and be with the person you love. If you were killed in action, your loved one would receive death benefits.
- You don’t have to pay an attorney to generate hundreds of pages of documentation to guarantee guardianship of your children (which still may be contested), to leave an inheritance or property to your partner, and to guarantee that you will be able to be at your partner’s bedside should they end up in the hospital, and that you will be able to make decisions for them when they can’t.
- Until recently your relationship was the only one that would allow death benefits from Social Security and similar programs upon your loved one’s death.
- In school you could take the person you wanted to prom and homecoming, provided they said yes.
- Even though white, heterosexual men are behind at least 97% of all child molestation cases, as a straight male you aren’t automatically considered to be a pervert because you want to become a Boy Scout leader or Big Brother.
- No one has equated your orientation as being the equivalent of stupid, weak, dumb, or less than someone else.
- There is no “straight panic” defense. A guy can’t beat up a woman because she was “coming onto me.”
I could continue this list, but I think we’re all a bit more clear now. It’s actually the heterosexual community that keeps putting itself in the GLBT community’s face if we’re going to be perfectly honest. Almost every moment of every day.
Why can’t we just be quiet about our sexuality and not have to come out of the closet? Not make “such a big deal” about it? That’s a great question. Here’s why: Imagine being hated, abused, discriminated against, cast down, threatened, harassed, etc., every day of your life. Imagine you have to hide who you really are from almost every significant person in your life.
While you sit in the lunch room at work and your coworkers are talking about their dates or latest man/woman trouble, you have to remain silent. Before you share any information, you have to carefully think it through so that you don’t inadvertently expose yourself or someone else for being what you really are. When with your straight male friends, they constantly are discussing the women they see and the things they would do and so on, and you have to remain silent, or make up stories, because you can’t reveal that part of yourself.
It’s like every day a little piece of you dies. It is incredibly difficult, draining, and stressful to lead two different lives.
And we see the evidence all around us of why we should keep our mouth shut. Whether it be violence or the latest youth who has committed suicide because they couldn’t take the harassment anymore.
40% of all homeless youth in the US identify as GLBT, and almost 60% of them have been sexually victimized as a result of their homeless status. Many of these homeless youth are kids who were cast out of their homes upon coming out or being found out.
Coming out allows us to heal somewhat, to stop hiding and be true to ourselves. It allows us to accept we are “different” and to accept that that is okay. Here’s what some people have shared about their decision to come out.
JJ said: “For me it was important to say to my parents as it was starting to hurt when, especially my mother, kept going on and on about me finding a nice girl while I travel or needing a nice girl to keep me on the straight (ha!) and narrow.”
Heather Badger Knight shared: “For me, it’s about being my most authentic self. Imagine if you were straight and couldn’t act like it. That’s why being out is so important to me. I need to be me and part of that is acknowledging who I’m attracted to. My lesbian identity is a huge part of who I am, but it’s not the only part of me either. I try to be a complete person and being gay is a small piece of the bigger picture.”
Sam Wood of Infinite Adventure says: “Not only is it important for me to be out for myself (and to therefore express an essential part of my identity), but I also think it’s important for me and other GLBT people to be out (especially bi people in opposite sex relationships) because it then makes it easier for other GBLT to come out.”
Tom Stockwell, the blogger behind Waegook Tom, feels that “For me, it’s about not hiding. It’s about being honest with the people around you, and being honest with yourself. It’s about taking the freedom that many of us now have and living openly, to respect those that fought for our rights. I’m not ashamed of who I am, and my sexual identity is a part of who I am. I don’t want to hide, and I think being open shows others that they don’t have to hide, either. That there are people the same as them, people who have gone through they’ve gone through and will support them, and that they don’t have to be afraid.”
When the celebrity Anderson Cooper decided to finally acknowledge his sexuality, I was struck by his reasons for doing so:
Part of coming out is telling others it’s okay to be themselves, to be authentic, to know there is no shame in being wired differently.
It’s also about helping to redefine what is gay to people. As someone once told me, “I didn’t really understand it until you put a face on it.” Once people find out that Billy Bob’s teacher is gay and a great person, or that the surgeon who saved their grandmother’s life is lesbian, it helps to demystify all the nonsense out there.
And while we’re discussing this whole coming out business, let’s address one other thing: The reason you don’t have a “straight pride parade” is because every day your sexuality is celebrated, defended, and supported. Once you begin to be persecuted, bullied, threatened, and assaulted for being a hetero, talk to me then.