Coming Out to Acceptance

I admit it. I was once homophobic.

I was raised in a culture where homosexuals were tormented and beaten up. This was during an era when there was nothing remotely acceptable or chic about homosexuality in our society. Just loneliness and humiliation.

Then I took a job in San Francisco in the mid-70’s. During the next 10 years I interacted with all kinds of people – straight, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transvestite, transgender, you name it.

And I discovered something: Their sexual orientation presented no threat to me and was irrelevant to our personal and working relationships.

People are likable, trustworthy, loyal, honest or not. A friend is a friend and a jerk is a jerk regardless of their sexual orientation. And, exactly as in the heterosexual world, sexual preference had no bearing on me unless a physical relationship was considered.

I also became convinced that homosexuality was not a choice.

Who, in their right mind, would choose to be a pariah in their society? Even today it is a life that can be filled with anxiety, rejection and insecurity. No one would “choose” that. Heterosexuality, homosexuality, bi-sexuality, it’s the way a human comes wired. To live as someone other than you are is to live life a life of frustration and to forfeit your right to the pursuit of happiness.

I think of one of my cousins. From the time he was in preschool, he was effeminate – only the word I was thinking was not very kind. He eventually accepted his sexual orientation, but only after being married, fathering a child and getting divorced. I have often thought of what a tough life that’s been, and how much happiness he forfeited because of societal pressures. It’s a sad thought.

Sadder still is the thought that some, faced with rejection and humiliation, have taken their own lives in desolation. The most recent high profile instance of this was the suicide of 18-year-old Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi. It must stop.

This Monday is National Coming Out Day. National Coming Out Day is an internationally-observed civil awareness day for coming out and discussion about gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual and trans-gender (LGBT) issues. It is observed by members of the LGBT communities and their supporters on October 11 every year.

I’m a straight man who supports those who walk a different path than I. Please welcome discussions on this topic within your sphere of influence. And offer love instead of fear, rejection and contempt.

Come out to acceptance, love and a happier future.

-Tom

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