Yesterday’s news that President Obama is now publicly supporting gay marriage has brought up a lot of chatter and caused some emotions to run high throughout the nation. When I heard the news, I was enjoying a respite from city life up in my friend’s recording studio. We had discussed the North Carolina amendment vote the night before and my heart went out to my friends that have campaigned aggressively to block this amendment from passing.
Unfortunately, there is still a lot of fear and even some hatred that drives people to create barriers for others in order for them to feel secure themselves.
I rarely openly discuss contentious political or social issues like this here, but I can’t help but feel compelled to speak up today. I’ve never been the type to proclaim my sexuality or make a fuss about gay marriage. Although I am gay, the prospect of marriage just seemed so far from my reality that it didn’t pull me into direct action. It wasn’t my fight, so I stayed on the sidelines.
Many of my friends are ardent activists and have fought for this issue and many other gay rights issues for years and even decades. Today’s victory belongs to them, there is no doubt. But it is undeniably shared with the rest of us that quietly go about our lives without rocking the boat. Some choose this out of fear, some out of comfort, and some because they just don’t want the spotlight on themselves under any circumstances. I can relate to all of these reasons and that’s why speaking out now is so important.
When I was very young, I knew I was gay. It was something I just felt from an early age and I never really questioned it. Sure, I tried to hide it and pretend that it wasn’t part of who I was, but I didn’t deny it to myself.
There were no gay role models then; no Internet to connect with supportive resources. To be sure, it was a different world then. In my middle school and high school years, there were plenty of people that suspected I was gay, and after being outed in the 9th grade, there were several kids in my school that wanted to beat the shit out of me. I managed to avoid physical confrontations in those years, but the threat of being assaulted was ever present.
I learned survival skills back then, one of which was how to be a chameleon and blend in with most any crowd. The last thing I wanted to do was attract too much attention – it was out of fear. I was fearful for my personal safety, but I learned how to keep myself safe by getting along with people who might have contempt for gay people, or people that were just ‘different.’ This pattern of learning how to fit in to avoid detection served me when I had fewer options, but it has turned into a liability over the years and it manifests in ways that I don’t like today.
Today brought it all to a head for me. While I am not in hiding any longer and will openly discuss my sexual preference with anyone who asks, I have been far from active in the movement for equal rights for LBGT people. Thankfully others have been much more active and the progression toward acceptance has continued to pick up momentum.
But when someone like a US President speaks out, it’s time for us all to raise our hands and be counted amongst the millions of people who are denegrated and disrespected regularly in our culture.
The President spoke out and took a huge political risk for us, and we owe it to ourselves to use this as a moment to show solidarity with our LGBT brothers and sisters and remind the rest of the world that we are part of the fabric of society and will not hide in the shadows while our rights are trampled on.
There are many who believe that this is not an issue that belongs in Presidential politics, and in all honesty I tend to agree. There are urgent issues that our nation, and indeed our entire species faces that require our immediate attention.
But I also understand what it means to be subjected to hate, bigotry, discrimination, and the prejudices of society on a daily basis. I know what it’s like to feel alone in a struggle for basic respect. And I know what it’s like to lose your dignity out of fear of being discovered and physically harmed.
While gay marriage may not be a top pressing issue for a US President to crusade for, I admire Barack Obama for speaking his mind, however unpopular his opinion might be in certain circles. I don’t expect any immediate broad, sweeping changes as a result of his remarks, but I do hope it will help steer the conversation in our nation toward acceptance, understanding, and love.
If someone in his position can speak out and be honest about his feelings on this, perhaps many others will follow.
I never thought I would write this post. I’ve historically kept this side of myself fairly ambiguous in social media channels, but I feel compelled to speak up now. I hope that this will help in some small way to explain a side of the issue that some may not have heard.
What about you? Is there something in your life that you feel like speaking out on? Just imagine how the world can benefit from hearing your voice.