|Me and Bill, my spouse|
Yesterday was National Coming Out Day. For those of you, both gay and straight, who aren't familiar with this "holiday", it is the day that encourages closeted gay men and women to come out of the closet. To toss of the yoke of oppression that many in Straight Land have had on our necks for centuries.
To those of you who have followed my blog regularly you know that I have been out of the closet for fifty years. I came out in April of 1963, long before it was fashionable or even safe. Not that I was any hero or anything like that, I came out because after serving three years in the Army (Army Security Agency working at the National Security Agency where they had regular purges of the "security risks" homosexuals), I decided I wasn't going to live the rest of my life in fear and self-hatred. I was 21 years old, just starting out in life after having served my obligation to our country. If I wasn't gay I would have stayed in the Army and made a career out of it but that wasn't an option for a gay man in 1963. According to law I was a criminal because I was homosexual.
|Me at the White House in 1962 when I was working at NSA stationed at nearby Ft. Meade, MD - totally in the closet because I didn't want to get kicked out of the Army for having "homosexual tendencies"|
Yesterday I posted my brief history of coming out in 1963, knowing full well I would ruffle some feathers of my more religious family members and others on my Facebook page. Sure enough I did.
This is my way of shaking things up. I've never participated in a gay pride parade in my life, not that there is anything the matter with gay pride parades. However, I have been in two marches on Washington D.C. in support of equal rights for gays and lesbians. The first march was in 1979. I was nervous as all get out but I was asked to go and I went. I was so nervous and sure I would be arrested I didn't even take my camera so no photos from me on that march.
|1979 Equality March on Washington D.C. (not my photo - I was too afraid to take my camera)|
The second march in support of gay rights I took in 2009. This march was a lot different. I wasn't nervous and had no fear of being arrested or brutalized like I did at the first march. In fact, this march was more festive than anything else, a celebration.
|Me in front of the White House, rainbow flag, beads and all - no longer afraid - 30 years made a big difference|
This past year I was privileged to be asked to testify before both houses of the Delaware state legislature in support of marriage equality.
|Me waiting to testify before the Delaware state senate sub committee in support of marriage equality|
I am happy to say that the marriage equality bill passed in Delaware and the man I've been living with for the past 49 years and I got married this past July, on our 49th anniversary.
|Me and Bill the day we got our marriage license at the Sussex County Courthouse in Georgetown - hey folks, we're not in Kansas (or Arizona, or South Carolina, or Texas, et al)|
|Our official wedding portrait with our witnesses|
“Gay brothers and sisters,... You must come out. Come out... to your parents... I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives... come out to your friends... if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors... to your fellow workers... to the people who work where you eat and shop... come out only to the people you know, and who know you. Not to anyone else. But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake. For the sake of the youngsters who are becoming scared by the votes from Dade to Eugene.”
Is there a risk to coming out? Sure. Harvey Milk paid with his life. I've been luckier but I've had some might close calls in my life too. I've had a gang of toughs try to run me down with their car. I had another gang of drunken teenagers chase me down a center city Philadelphia street wielding baseball bats when I was on my home from a gay bar. I've had several other encounters with violent homophobes that through luck and quick thinking I avoided being injured or killed. However, I have lost two jobs because of homophobic bosses and they got away with it.
|Harvey Milk - San Francisco - 1976|
It isn't easy but then claiming your right to live as a free man (or woman) sometimes never is. Even today, in our so called "enlightened age" I have been confronted with the ugly face of homophobia most recently when I visited my father's birthplace in the mountainous hills of western North Carolina. A relative asked me if I "practiced the gay lifestyle". When I answered "If you mean am I gay, yes." He then said "Now you listen to me bud, if you dare to step foot on my parent's property (his mother was the granddaughter of my great aunt), you will have to deal with me. You got that bud!?" When I heard those hateful and threatening words a familiar cold chill went down my spine again. The same cold chill that went down my spine when I watched Pat Buchanan give his infamous "Culture War" speech at the 1992 Republican Convention in Houston Texas.
I believe a lot of the homophobia is based on ignorance of gay people. Until those people who are so afraid of gay people, know someone who is gay they will be afraid and thus try to "control" us by keeping us in the closet.
The only way we will end homophobia and discrimination against gays in this country is for every man and woman who is gay to come out. Already there are cracks starting to appear where none were before like professional sports. No longer are those coming out just celebrities in the movies or singers.
The walls are coming down folks, slowly but surely. I just hope I live long enough that when I identify myself as gay I don't hear "Well, it says right here in the Bible........." Ironically, actually it doesn't say anything about homosexuality in the Bible. But that's another whole blog posting that I am not going to get into here.
I'll end with this posting with quote I heard from an anonymous source a few days ago:
"Hating gays is a lifestyle choice."