01 June 2010

So, this is nice...

I've been thinking a lot about the closet over the past few days - how it warps people, how it diminishes them, how "the closet is a cold, lonely place that makes you lie again and again to those closest to you and always risks ending in tears," as Graham McKerrow put it.

People can grow comfortable with it, and "people" includes those who put themselves in as well as those who expect others to stay there. People like John McCain ostensibly speaking for the US Military; the Catholic Church which has been running its own "Don't Ask Don't Tell" shell game for a few centuries now; and countless parents, to name a few.

My dad has other queer children - out of the ten of us, that's not too surprising - and one other sibling has self disclosed to me, so it's not conjecture that they (sic) are queer. But because they haven't told Dad, they are welcome in his home with whomever they want to bring. I, and this likely is not a surprise, am not.

I could have stayed in the closet and thus have been able to bring anyone I wanted to family reunions - even the person with whom I have chosen to spend my life. We could whisper behind Dad's back, me and "the cool siblings," the ones I would tell, and it would all be wink-wink, nudge-nudge, and my personal integrity would be shot to hell for the sake of not aggrieving a bigoted man's prejudices.

I would be ceding permission to determine my integrity. I would be acceding to someone else passing judgment on the quality - not even the quality, but the very validity - of my relationship, of my love.

Why would I do that? How could I do that? I couldn't. Too much Thoreau, maybe, or too much Shakespeare or Whitman or Joyce or even Catholic teaching:
Deep within their consciences men and women discover a law which they have not laid upon themselves and which they must obey... Their dignity rests in observing this law, and by it they will be judged.
So I followed "this law that I discovered" and I came out, and incurred the opprobrium of some family and friends and faculty, because I didn't want "to lie again and again." Ultimately, coming out means telling the truth about your own life. It's being authentically yourself.

The person who stays in the closet must carefully, obsessively, maniacally construct and maintain a fa├žade. He or she may lose themselves in the construction and in the artifice, until there is no longer any there there.

Which brings me to the news item that made me reflect on this again. You'll be glad to know that California State Senator Roy Ashburn, R-Bakersfield, was referenced under this headline: "Outed lawmaker easing stance against gay rights."

(Well, was he outed, really? I don't think so. You may remember the State Senator from a previous post here, where he got busted for DUI after leaving a gay club with a male companion - so I kinda think the Senator outed himself.)

In any event, the article states that the Senator is re-thinking his stand on gay issues, and has declaimed as much from the floor of the Senate.

Well, better late than never, and there is one fewer miserable bastards in the world. According to State Senator Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, was quoted as saying his long-time friend and colleague "Seemed happier now."

Of course he does. He has now begun - sloppily, publicly, and criminally, but we all start somewhere - to live an authentic life. I wish him well, and hope fervently that he spends the rest of his time in the Senate working to undo some of the spiteful and small things he did in the past.

Finally, the Chronicle article cited a Bakersfield Californian article (that I couldn't find) quoting Sen. Ashburn as saying that he had begun "taking care of a lot of old baggage." Too bad that Rev. George Reker's "rentboy" can't help him with that kind of baggage.

Welcome, Senator. It gets easier from here.

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