Saturday, August 4, 2012

Elton & Anderson & Me

Recently I’ve come across two interesting stories of the coming-out of celebrities.  The first was Elton John.  It wasn’t until 1976, after he had already made his fame with hits like “Crocodile Rock” and “Saturday Nights Alright for Fighting,” that a reporter dared to ask him if he was gay.  What was so surprising is that he had never been in the closet: he lived an open lifestyle, unashamed of his bisexuality.  He never came out, he said, because no one ever asked him.  And why would he?  Straight people don’t go around announcing their pure heterosexuality, why should everyone else have to announce their preferences?  How far should we take it?  Maybe if we all went around “coming out” as liking redheads, or whips and ballgags, or being furries, the compulsory announcement of sexual preference wouldn’t be so strikingly strange.

The second was Anderson Cooper.  Like John, Cooper has been open about his lifestyle with his friends, family, and colleagues, but not until recently did he disclose to the public, his audience, that he was gay.  This was for a number of reasons, one of which was certainly his marketability as a national newscaster.  As a journalist, his ability to blend and not create tension in a variety of situations (especially in the more conservative and homophobic areas of the world) might have also been at risk.  But, he eventually decided those risks did not outweigh what he felt as a responsibility to come out.  One quote particularly spoke to me:
"It’s become clear to me that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long, I have given some the mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something - something that makes me uncomfortable, ashamed or even afraid. This is distressing because it is simply not true. I’ve also been reminded recently that while as a society we are moving toward greater inclusion and equality for all people, the tide of history only advances when people make themselves fully visible."
It seems to me unquestionably obvious that the denial of civil rights and human dignity on the basis of sexuality or gender identity is as morally repugnant as the denials of those rights based on race.  However obvious this is morally, it is not quite the same visually.  No one can pick out the LGBTQ individuals in a crowd because they are all around us.  And while Elton is right, that there should be no requirement for an announcement of non-heterosexual interests, Anderson makes an equal point about responsibility.  It’s hard to rally for a cause without a flag waving proudly.

Recent developments have intensified this struggle.  I refer of course to Dan Cathy’s remarks about the political preferences of Chik-Fil-A.  Above the Mason-Dixon their chicken is pretty scarce, so I’ve never been a regular customer.  But it used to be that whenever I was out of state and near one, I’d have to stop and have a sandwich (or three…really, they’re delicious).  That stopped a year or two ago when I first found out about Chik-Fil-A’s corporate contributions.  I refused to give them another dime, and I warned those I knew about making the choice to dine there.  Unsurprisingly, many didn’t care.  The political affiliation of a business made no difference to them, as long as their product was pleasing and the price was right (this type of irresponsible capitalism is another major peeve of mine, but that’s for another time).  But now that Cathy’s comments have blown the story into a national sensation I’m hearing more diverse reactions. 

I knew there would be those who supported Chik –Fil-A because they themselves are homophobic.  I can live with that.  As an individual, your opinion is your right.  What is worse to me is those who say they “respect” Chik-Fil-A for standing by their opinion (never mind those who want to make it a First Amendment issue.  I don’t know why SCOTUS dropped the ball on Citizens United, but I’ll never read the Constitution to include corporations as people).  This is like being proud of Neo-Nazis for exercising their right to assemble and march.  There is nothing brave about spreading homophobia.  Hate has never been brave.  Hate is the refuge of the coward and the weakling.  And hatred in the name of God is saddest of all, a perversion of the moral code preying on the lost and hopeful parts of men’s souls.  There is no justification for the poison and vitriol in signs like “GOD HATES FAGS,” no redemption for those who would send love to hell.

As they abuse their right to speak, so must we embrace ours.

And so we come to the point.


I identify myself as Pansexual.

What does this mean?  Nothing.  And everything.  It means I don’t draw hard and fast lines about gender and sexuality.  I see every individual as an individual.  Parts and preferences are interesting but not defining.  I can be attracted to and interested in anyone, regardless of biological gender, gender identity, or sexual preference.   I’ve never once denied an attraction to females, the presumed desire for my observably male gender, because I have no reason to.  I love women.  Nor have I denied an attraction to anyone else, mainly because the question’s never come up.  What I haven’t done, beyond a few small tests of the water, is proactively announced myself.  And now I have.

Why?  Because I want to be visible.  I need to be visible.  I need every person who makes a slur or homophobic remark to know they have to look me in the eye when they say it.  You’re telling me I can’t marry, you’re telling me I’m disgusting, you’re telling me I’m going to hell.  You’ve been saying the same thing to millions of others for years, but I need you to know I’m standing in the crowd too.  Proudly.  And it should be obvious by now that we’re not going anywhere.

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