National Coming Out Day, One More Time
It took a straight 27-year-old guy vlogging at Brotherhood 2.0 to remind me that today is National Coming Out Day.
I haven't thought much about National Coming Out Day in...years. A decade, maybe. As the woman in this swell video points out, you don't just come out once; you come out all the time, for the rest of your life, in countless situations, but the big ones--friends, family--I did a long time ago.
These days, I come out on the merest pretext, from a combination of principle and practicality. I am not what you'd call a private person; it goes against my grain, and trying to remember what I'm supposed to keep secret about my life would irritate and exhaust me beyond belief. I'm a pretty ordinary, bourgeois, middle-aged person in appearance and countenance, and I like to flatter myself that my being so regular-appearing and being so out can maybe help open some minds that might otherwise be closed. I go by the Harvey Milk principle that you can change peoples' minds, and ultimately help to change the world, by simply being yourself and being out. (It's also a nice lazy way to be an activist.)
But I know--and was reminded anew today when I came across this thoughtful and eloquent essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education--that being so out is a luxury. The article's pseudonymous author writes that in the competitive academic job market, she can't always risk coming out at interviews; at the get-to-know-you social events that often accompany them, social questions like "are you married?" become verbal land mines. She writes that she may have to take a job in an environment that wouldn't support or welcome her relationship. I can see why that prospect would frighten her, especially in the tight community that so often comprises a college.
The Chronicle article, and this post by witchtrivets, have made me think again about how much simpler the casual-conversation part of my life became after MG and I got legally married in Vancouver just over four years ago. Since then, I've never hesitated when someone asks if I'm married; these days, when I'm asked, I don't elaborate, or qualify, or educate anyone about the Defense of Marriage Act; I just say, "yes."
It means a lot to me, that "yes." One thing that I didn't post about, when I wrote about the horrible day when I didn't become a Permanent Resident because I didn't have one very important document, was that the Immigration Officer kept referring to RW as my "friend." It was infuriating: I would say, "My spouse is on her way down to meet me; she can sign for all our goods," and he would say, "Well, when your friend gets here, she can..."
It was scary, because I was at their mercy, there at the border, and they could've just refused outright to let me in. But every time he said "friend," that day, I interrupted and corrected him: Spouse. Spouse. Spouse. Because getting to say that, and have it count, was one reason we moved.
And I hope that Chronicle writer, and Witchtrivets, and everybody who wants to, gets to say it soon.