Inspired by this article by Kile Ozier on the Good Men Project:
I wanted to share my thoughts on “coming out” via pressure from others.
I was looking forward to seeing the comments on the above article, but I fear the approach may be too draconian and a bit too guilt-trippy for most folks to want to engage with it. Especially when most closeted LGBTQ people aren’t just wary of a vague threat of not being accepted or losing a job. Actually, losing a job these days can ruin somebody’s life and their ability to feed their children. Plus, there is the very real, local and immediate threat of bodily harm and even death for some, according to where they live. Spouses could take away kids and never allow the person to see them again (since the media and society love to spread the lie that “gays are dangerous and will molest kids”). Many are not willing to risk these things, and like the concept of reporting one’s rape, coming out needs to be a personal choice with risks, pros and cons assessed. If fictitious Josh Smith comes out at the urging of others before he is ready, loses his family and ends up committing suicide because the loss of his kids forever is too much to face, what have we, the LBGTQ community, gained? A soundbite? A platform point? Josh is still dead. Likewise, if his neighbor shoots him dead because he doesn’t want “one of them” around his sons? Ignorance and bigotry is killing people right and left these days, so it’s not a vague threat. It is another risk to be carefully considered. Now Josh may kill himself because the loneliness, self-hate, and lies of the closet can cause depression and despair, too, so it’s all a risk – to come out or to not.
I have never been “closeted” as a bisexual; I spent my life hiding my abuse and rapes and didn’t much care if school peers called me gay or beat me up for it. What was that, compared to my home life of abuse? None of them hit harder than my father.
My boyfriend is partially in the closet. He started therapy now to deal with a past of parents who neglected and ignored him, while his father would beat him at any sign of “being soft”. His father spoke almost daily about how “those gays should just be killed” and the threat was not veiled at all what would happen if they knew he was gay. He tried suicide by drinking bleach as a child and his mother only said, “Don’t embarrass the family.” The “gay goes to Hell” was a constant theme, too. As a child, he believed it.
He only has a few friend groups that he thinks don’t know (though I suspect they do and don’t care) but he needs to work that parental BS and abuse out of his mind and heart and then choose for himself to come out fully. He probably has low risk of real danger, as he’s nearly a mascot to the police and the bikers around here. Still, like reporting rape, it is a crucially personal decision. Since each person is the only one who knows their risks, others can urge, but should not try to force or guilt trip that person into taking risks that could end in another person’s death or the ruin of their life.
I never reported my abusers as a child because I would have been killed. I watched them kill others, so it wasn’t an idle threat. As an adult, it took years for the “they’ll find me and hurt me” fear to fade, and to some degree it’s still something I struggle with. Yet I assessed risks and decided to tell, to speak out, to help others.
I have been fortunate, in that I am still alive and I am protected by a new and loving family. Many teens and even children as young as ten are struggling in homophobic homes and are terrified to come out. Some who do are killed, sometimes by their own parent or community. Others are cast out to be homeless, at risk of rape, murder, drugs, prostitution, or starvation. Some kids are bullied to the point of suicide on the mere accusation of being LGBTQ when they aren’t, let alone what happens to the ones who are. The “It Gets Better” video campaign has been helping those kids. So does the Trevor Project. Alas, there are next to no similar help resources for adults.
We also need some serious public relations improvements. If enough of society still hates/fears LGBTQ people and see us as a threat to them and to their children, we need to show them we are not a threat. We need PSAs and other media and laws changed and better examples set. We need to eradicate the lie that “Gays harm boys”. A gay man is attracted to a man, not to his seven-year-old son. Homophobes equate gay with pedophile, and that is the root of the Boy Scouts not allowing adult LGBTQ people to be involved. Pedophiles infiltrate organizations where they will have access to kids. Yet the Boy Scouts of America think boys are being raped because there are gays involved. This is a prime example of a wrong public perception that we need to debunk. Prove to society that LGBTQ is not a threat; that is why the younger generations don’t worry about who is homosexual or not – they don’t see LGBTQ as a threat.
Personally, I know many LGBTQ people in committed relationships who feel most Pride parades don’t represent them at all. When the parades turn into an excuse to have a drunken/drugged barely clothed orgy on a public street, you will have some in society using that as “proof” that LGBTQ is a threat. I’m not telling anybody how to enjoy Pride – just wanted to point out the possibly irrationally unpopular opinion that many family-oriented LGBTQ folks have. Most of them I know avoid Pride because drunken debauchery is not kid-safe. Basically, party wild if you want to folks, but don’t be surprised if Pride footage on the news is used as “proof” that LGBTQ is a threat.
I understand the frustration and the sense that, being on the other side of it without loss of one’s life, a person can look back and say to the closeted person, “Go ahead, it’s okay.” But we usually don’t know the risks they face, and we shouldn’t be so impatient that we are willing lose lives by not giving each person the right and space in which to decide for themselves.
Now that my words will probably be taken as well as a stick hitting a hornet nest, I’ll go sit in my bunker and wait to be attacked over them in general, by whomever.
I appreciate the passion of articles like the one above; but as a rape and abuse survivor, I only see that people need the right to assess risks they face that we don’t know about, and then make a personal choice for themselves. That way, it will be the right choice for them and it will give them strength to face the results of their choice. In the end, community spirit aside, we all have to face those risks and consequences alone, one way or another.
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© W.R.R. 6/19/2013
For all survivors of any form of rape or abuse; you are not alone. Speak out. Find your path to healing.