I have said many times - Beware! They are not going to stop hating us or castigating us or fighting to take back our civil liberties just because we have some legal claim to civil rights.
Beware! The struggle is not over. Not even close to over.
Rather than comment on these current events, I would like to share the Afterword from Did You Ever See A Horse Go By? A Coming Out Memoir. I have shared these words on this blog before (probably labeled as the book's Preface) but in any case I think some of my observations may be relevant at this time.
Peter, the friend to whom I addressed the Preface, died from complications of AIDS, like too many other people I have known. I never finished composing that letter to him in 1987 and so it was never sent. Here, many years later, I include an Afterword, addressed to him.
I’ve somehow survived to 2014. I am old—or pretty nearly old as life journeys go.
In the grand scheme of things, I am nobody and my life is irrelevant.
So why should my story, my experiences beginning more than half a century ago, matter to
Why should I bother to write down these snippets of my life?
The answer to that last question: I had to write this account, even if no one ever
reads it, because I was compelled to do so in the same way as I was compelled to
come out; it was a matter of survival. And if I am to live any semblance of an
authentic life, I must come out unreservedly and often; because coming out is never
only an event: it is a continuous process and one that challenges me daily.
• The woman who cuts my hair when I’m visiting in South Carolina insists on
making small talk and asks about my wife. She has scissors. How do I respond?
• At the auto repair shop, I tell the service tech, who I’ve just overheard making a
homophobic comment, “If there’s a problem, call Lee, my, uh, friend? roommate?
partner? significant other? husband?”
• Lee and I are holding hands on a deserted beach at sunset as some college kids
approach in the distance. Do I let go of his hand?
Ann Bancroft as Ma Beckoff scolded Harvey Fierstein’s Arnold in Torch Song
Trilogy: “You haven’t spoken one sentence since I got here,” she says indignantly,
“without the word gay in it.” How often do I check myself so as not to offend the
likes of all the Ma Beckoffs in the world with constant gay references?
• I am challenged daily to come out, again and again and again, because, even as
things appear to be changing, there still exist subtle and pervasive societal and
cultural norms that are intended to usher us back into our closets: the veiled but
insidious beliefs, behaviors, words, and hatred that are still widely tolerated.
• I am challenged to come out, again and again and again, because of the hate and
vitriol and rage that seem to escalate in response to every equal rights victory and
with every courageous individual who comes out and who refuses to remain
silent and invisible.
• I am challenged to come out, again and again and again, because too many gay
kids still choose suicide as their only option to escape bullying and familial rejection;
because some lawmakers still introduce bills that would take back our hard
won rights and liberties; because some religions still wave signs declaring that
“God hates fags” while others, less blatant, use more refined and educated language
to condemn and vilify us.
My coming out was not only a matter of self-preservation; it was and continues
to be a uniquely liberating, transformational, spiritual, and healing life experience. I
do believe that coming out is the only antidote to the poison of societal oppression
that tries to deceive us into believing that the closet is the safest place to be, that the
closet will ultimately protect us from the world, from ourselves, and from eternal
The closet’s false security is ultimately suffocating and fatal to one’s emotional
and psychological integrity, if not to one’s physical existence. The closet is built on
fear and guilt, but more so on societal and religious disapprobation and condemnation—
a formula for what is called internalized homophobia. The closet derives
power from this internalized homophobia, from our internal conflicts and fears, the
artificial conflict between some bogus good and fake evil: the fear of rejection, reprisals,
and violence, and the terror of a mythologized Last Judgment and ungodly
Despite all of that, we persist in our coming out as if our lives depended on it—
because they do. Coming out is so vital to our integrity that the impulse to acknowledge
and be true to ourselves is, in many respects, not unlike our innate survival
The fact that the event that we call coming out is virtually universal to the contemporary
homosexual experience suggests that it is not an inconsequential phenomenon.
Think about that. Coming out has a reality beyond our individual experience.
It is both a unique and a shared experience—one that unites us in some fundamental
Our sexuality, our gayness, is mostly invisible to others. Coming out and being
out involves being visible—both when we look in the mirror and when others see us.
Sometimes, in order to be visible to others, we have to be “in their face.” Sometimes
we need to tell our stories, each of us, story after story, after story, until they “get it.”
Because “they” are still trying to define “us,” tell us who they think we are, tell us
that we are objectively disordered or immoral or sinful or worse.
Who are “they” and who do they think they are?
Unfortunately “they” are not only the ignorant and bigoted, but often otherwise
intelligent and sometimes even well-meaning individuals. Why do “they” think they
know more about our sexuality, or us, than we do?
More to the point, why do they care?
Certainly “they” outnumber “us” and we’ve always been an easy target. Does
their inability to save our souls or change us, or to limit our freedom somehow make
them inadequate or fearful?
What is in it for “them” that they so persist?
It amazes and frustrates me that our stories—the actual lived experience of gay,
lesbian, bisexual, or transgender individuals—are so summarily ignored, discounted,
It baffles me that many vocal and influential individuals persist in holding to and
disseminating absurd, erroneous, and irrelevant opinions about us.
This is unacceptable and can no longer be tolerated.
“They” can only make their own positions tenable by repeating questionable scriptures,
fabricated “studies,” pseudo-science, and outright lies—and repeating them over and over as
they wholly disregard us and our voices.
I can only pose a few questions for others to try to answer: What is it about
homosexuality and sexual and gender non-conformity that makes it such a lightning
What is so unique about it that religious factions condemn it, regressive governments
ban it, entire cultures punish it, and ordinary people are moved to hatred and violence by it?
Why are millions of dollars spent to fight us and to deny us equal protections under the law?
These questions underlie the need to tell my story.
As for the first question—whether my story or experiences will matter to the
readers or not—is for each of them to decide. But I do know that this is my voice
and my truth, for what it’s worth.
For me the value in telling my story here, beyond the healing, is to preserve a tiny
slice of collective history—to document what it was to be gay and to come out in a
particular time and place. I want to remember all the others who were there along
with me, creating our lives together and defining our sexuality as we went along. My
hope is that others find some value in that as well.
With Fondness and Love,