Thursday, October 11, 2007

National Coming Out Day, One More Time

All day I was thinking: "October 11.. October 11...isn't this some kind of holiday or something??"

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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another one of your great posts.

5:14 AM  
Blogger witchtrivets said...

Thanks elswhere -- great post. That immigration officer must have a very unhappy life.

I left the circles unfilled, if it matters.

I have some gay friends in the SW who are thinking of moving to the Pacific Northwest. Vancouver is on their list. And marriage alone is enough to make me want to persuade them to move to Canada. Even though I love Portland and Seattle, the thought of the simplification of just being married. That must feel great. And I am jealous. And happy for you and RW and MG. But still jealous.

8:02 AM  
Anonymous rachel said...

Nice post, Els.

8:32 AM  
Anonymous monkeypants said...

This was an awesome, thought-provoking post. Thank you.

Also, as a Canadian, I feel compelled to apologize for the border guard's antediluvian attitude.

1:08 AM  

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