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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

On celebrities coming out...

Ok, so not political in the general sense of the term, but since it doesn't really fit anywhere else, I wanted to put this here.

I want to start by saying that this post is prompted by this article in which Lucas Cruikshank came out as gay.  Having never seen or heard him, I had no clue, but from the article, it seems that people weren't at all surprised.  And that is pretty cool.  What is not so cool were some of the comments to the article and it is there that I want to focus the bulk of this post.

But before we can look at them, I do need to address the issue which prompted the comments, namely Lucas Cruikshank outing himself.  We live in a time where more and more people are feeling comfortable coming out of the closet.  And this is a good thing.  Not because it promotes the "gaying up" of America or any nonsense like that, but because it shows that we are (slowly) becoming more tolerant of people of different sexual orientations and they feel that they can be themselves in public.  A lot of people wonder why people feel the need to come out, and in a sense I agree.  It is not really a matter that the public needs to know about, however it is helpful to other non-famous people who may be struggling with whether or not they should come out of the closet and be themselves.  Having good role models is always a wonderful thing.  Also, as a more diverse group of people reveal themselves as LGBT, it helps to broaden people minds as to what exactly it means to be LGBT.

Coming out of the closet is not an easy choice.  Even though I have known that I liked guys since the first time I saw Top Gun and paid more attention to Tom Cruise than Kelly McGillis, I never really thought about what that meant.  It wasn't until college that I really started to realize what my feelings meant and I fought them for years.  It was only after college when I met my first openly gay man (I actually knew several in college, but I did not know they were gay!) that I felt comfortable taking the first, tentative steps to coming out.  Even after coming out, it took me years to really accept myself and what it meant for me to be gay.  To be honest, it is still a work in progress, but I have come a long way since I came out.

To straight people who wonder why we feel the need to come out of the closet, please note that American culture assumes you are straight unless you say otherwise.  People often ask, "Straight people don't announce themselves as straight, so why do gay people feel the need to announce that they are gay?"  and seem to chalk it up to stereotypes of gay men as drama queens or some sort of evil agenda.  Also, look at the struggle that LGBT individuals have had to go through to get to where we are.

In the book The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society, noted historian Arthur Schlesinger talked about how as new immigrants arrived, they would celebrate their history in such a way as to build themselves up.  The LGBT community, although not an immigrant group, can be viewed in much the same way.  We are struggling to achieve equal rights and look to role models for purposes of emulation.  It helps to build self-esteem and encourages a sense of community.

Another point to consider is the suicide rate among LGBT youth.  Also, consider how many times you have heard of someone being beaten or killed merely because of their sexual orientation.  Again, here is where acceptance is a good thing.  As more people accept people who come out of the closet, we will (hopefully) see a decrease in both the murder and suicides of LGBT people.

My final point is that sexual orientation is unlike most other groupings of people.  Unlike skin color or the sex of an individual (both of which are readily apparent to the naked eye), sexual orientation is not always so obvious.  Yes, there are some individuals who are very obviously LGBT, but there are many who are not.  So, coming out of the closet is the easiest way to let people know that you are LGBT and thereby serve as a role model for others who need it.

Ok, so I strayed a bit from the comments, but I hope this proves to serve as food for thought and possibly for a good conversation, even if it is off this blog.