Tag Archives: Coming Out

Homosexuality doesn’t destroy families, homophobia does.

Homosexuality doesn’t destroy families, homophobia does.

People rest comfortably in the sentiment that they don’t ‘hate’ gay people. They simply feel that gay relationships are unnatural and that the people in them are confused. They don’t wish harm on gay people, just wish they’d stop being so burdensome on the psyche with their…presence.

“I don’t agree with your lifestyle, but that’s just my opinion,” they say, citing the usual suspects as reasons — religion, biology, zoology, and the always high-minded “eww” factor of gay sex. 

But you know what? I call bullshit.

Homophobia is a choice. And all the justifications for why you “disagree with that lifestyle” are rooted in an inability to imagine life outside of your own box. It would be different if homosexuality was linked to some degradation in society, much like violence and ignorance are. But it isn’t. It would be different if you had to be gay. But you don’t.

Gay people haven’t perverted marriage. Same-sex parents aren’t raising damaged children. On the contrary, people have been experts at ruining their own lives, and those around them, for centuries without help from the gays.

If you’re curious about what homophobia (and sexism) looks like, check this: Dr. Umar Johnson, “Educator, Psychologist, Political Scientist and Pan-Africanist,” according to his website, recently argued that overbearing Black single mothers are responsible for the existence of gay Black men. This is so dangerous.

And yet, so easily disproven. For example, I submit the [Magic] Johnson family. How does this happen, Dr. Johnson?

http://marcgordonshow.com/rich-kids-of-beverly-hills-star-ej-johnson-signs-with-wme-exclusive/

Fabulous son, E.J. Johnson, mama Cookie, daddy Magic. (Just so we’re clear: EJ flames, honey. He’s gay.)

Couldn’t be because people are, I don’t know…different? That even a father could be different from his son? The psychologist, scientist, and educator didn’t find this explanation in any of his life studies? Homophobia makes you blind to evidence that’s right before you.

Don’t let people with credentials consign your ignorance.

As National Coming Out Day approaches, I urge families to be better than their biases. Be better than your fears of the unknown. Be better than your disappointment about your expectations. I understand that you may never understand how a person could be into someone of the same gender. But consider this: It’s not about you.

I don’t understand how people can listen to Bob Dylan or consider Wiz Khalifa attractive, but that’s not my bag. I don’t have to understand it to respect it. To regard it. Homophobia is the opposite — because you don’t understand, you disrespect and disregard. There’s nothing noble about that, even if, in your rationalizing, you believe you’re doing the Lord’s work. One person’s salvation doesn’t depend on another’s, does it? I only went to Vacation Bible School for the snacks and the $20 my parents gave me, so I could be wrong.

Even if I am though, how do you know that my spiritual convictions aren’t just as strong as yours? Don’t assume faith has to look the same; don’t assume family has to look the same. Don’t assume life has to look the same. It does not.

Remember that few rational people would risk family shame, abandonment, and judgment by coming out if it wasn’t something they felt compelled to do.

If you find out this weekend that a loved one is gay, don’t let homophobia destroy your relationship. Be better than your fear of what you don’t know. Be better than your disappointment about your expectations.

Nobody’s going to talk to you about sex on the same day they come out. But if you find that that’s all you’re thinking about, then you’re dropping the ball. Snap out of it and get back to the person who just bore their soul to you. It’s about more than sex to them.


Ocean of Emotion

Ocean of Emotion

I don’t think Frank Ocean’s recent revelation about his first love is the ‘coming out’ story we’ve tried to make it.  I’ve maintained since the first time a woman’s love pulled at my own heartstrings, that sexuality is more fluid than fixed.

Frank Ocean’s is the first voice you hear on Jay-Z and Kanye West’s ‘Watch the Throne’ album.  He’s a rising star.  So when I read his tumblr post yesterday morning, I knew right away it would shake things up in the hip hop world.  Folks talked themselves in circles and worked themselves into a fury trying to define Ocean:  oh, so that n*gga gay now; he’s bi; he’s on the down low.  I don’t know if he is any of those things, but either way, I don’t think that was the point of the post.

Frank’s  “thank you’s” speaks to the complexity of human emotion.  His letter was a love story, not one of homosexual discovery.  That the object of Frank’s affection was a man isn’t inconsequential, I can admit that.  I understand how difficult it is socially and culturally for a young Black man in the hip hop world to admit feelings that his contemporaries would probably never admit to themselves, or find the courage to share with the world.  Frank took a tremendous leap to let a piece of his truth live.

The intimacy shared between Frank Ocean and his male friend is more layered than the one-dimensional identity public opinion is trying to force.  Frank’s letter offers a more interesting take on love, namely that it isn’t picky about social variables.  It doesn’t take race, religion, income, gender, or political affiliation into consideration when it settles in.  When it hits you, it hits you.  And there’s nothing you can really do about the feeling, or that you felt it.  Frank said it beautifully:  “By the time I realized I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless. There was no escaping, no negotiating with the feeling. No choice. It was my first love, it changed my life.”  Yep, that’s how it goes.

The implications of same-sex attraction are always the hurdle.  But the attraction itself usually happens naturally.  And if you’ve never had one before, then your opinion lacks credibility on what it is, or what it feels like.  No one gets to decide for all of us what is and isn’t “natural.”  You just don’t.

Frank Ocean’s personal testimony is powerful because it’s so basic, and so common to the human experience.  Cats fall in love.  And for whatever reason, sometimes the cats they fall for can’t handle the pressure.  Frank’s story didn’t have to be activist to resonate.  It was a love story.  It was just a dude exposing his truth with personal freedom being the ultimate end.  That’s what makes the story all the more engrossing and courageous.

Frank’s letter and the reactions to it, also expose a few blind spots in our perceptions about sexuality and intimacy.  Attraction, in my experience, hasn’t been just about gender.  I accept that for most folks it is.  But sometimes gender is merely a variable, like good skin or pretty eyes.  Sometimes you fall for the person first, and his or her gender is an afterthought – a bridge you’ll cross when you come to it, if you ever have a need to.  Sometimes the love is all that matters.

Frank fell for a person who couldn’t fully reciprocate.  For Adam and Eve, or Adam and Steve, rejection is hard to take.  But four summers later, Frank had grown strong enough to share his secret and strong enough to move through it.  He’d grown strong enough to show, through his experience, that people are just people.  We have emotions and feel things we don’t expect.  But whether we expect them or understand them, doesn’t change the fact that they are.  They just are.

The ocean of emotion is vast.  If you find love out here – if you find someone who makes you feel genuine love and affection – you don’t look the gift horse in the mouth.   I’m grateful to Frank Ocean for being an ambassador of this idea.  I’m proud of him and I love him for his honesty and vulnerability.  In telling his story, he gives voice to many people who’ve experienced the same, but never had an ally.  Now they know.  People are just people, and we feel what we feel.  We just do.

 


Coming Out: A Year Later

Folks came outta the woodwork with support. It meant the world to me. Thank you.

One year ago today I chose to endure whatever uncertainty lay ahead — whatever comforts I might lose, and the relationships that might be forever bruised so that I could live an authentic life.

My heart beat so fast, and determined as I was to say what I needed to say, the words felt stuck at every turn — in my chest, in my throat, on the tip of my tongue.  But I needed to say them.  I couldn’t go another second  in that closet.

And inauthenticity is that.  closet.  It’s stifling.  You can’t spread your wings in there.  You can’t blossom.

Telling my mom that I was “for all intents and purposes, gay” was the hardest conversation I’d ever had with anyone.  It was awkward.  And when she hung up on me, I knew that our relationship would never be the same.

But coming out to my parents was a necessary risk.  I’d grown exhausted with hiding parts of my life — significant parts and significant people, and the significant experiences we’d shared.  I’d built relationships that I was grateful for, and proud of.  But for years, I sacrificed celebrating the full joy of those relationships, fearful that my folks would find out.

The catalyst for my coming out day was a question about why I didn’t own any dresses or skirts.  My mom was aggressive in her incredulity about what, then, did I wear to work?  What did I wear on special occasions?  ”I don’t wear dresses,” I said.  In that moment, that statement affirmed for me and about me so much more than a sartorial choice.  I wasn’t the woman my mom had expected me to be, and the time had come for me to say that.  Coming out was about telling the truth — my truth.  For me, “I don’t wear dresses” also meant, “Mama, I like girls.”  I was breaking the ice.

My double life jig was up.  My parents needed to know the truth and I needed to live in the light, like, all the time.  I needed to not need to change my phone’s wallpaper every time I went home.  I needed to not need to explain why I was at Her house again, or why She was always with me.  I needed to not have to worry about whether a picture I posted, or something I said seemed suspect.

Every time I switched pronouns or pretended lovers were only friends for the sake of maintaining comfortable conversations, I devalued the sincerity of my emotions.  I reinforced the notion that there was something about my feelings that was shameful, that what I’d shared with the women I’d dated was less special because we were two girls.  Hiding was a personal conflict I could no longer ignore.  Love feels too good to not share and show off a little.  But how real could it be if I wouldn’t risk a little consternation to tell the world, “Nah, that’s my lady.  She’s much, much more than just my friend.”

I determined in a moment that I couldn’t concern myself with what “they” might think.  It was a gut check;  I wasn’t fit to live the life I’d envisioned for myself if I punked out when the road got rough.  Greatness requires the guts to withstand trial long enough to reap the triumph.  If I wasn’t willing to stand up for who I am, and protect who I love, then I didn’t deserve to be great.

I still struggle with anger and resentment at my parents’ reactions.  Although my dad handled things better than my mom,  his worldview and mine clash too, sometimes.  So, to say it’s been “difficult” this last year would be a gross understatement, as all of my strength has been tested.  And while the best lesson my mama ever taught me had to be learned at her expense, I am grateful I got it.  I know without question that there is nothing “wrong” with me, or the way I think, or the way I feel.

I’m glad I came out.  In fact, if I had to do it all over again knowing how difficult it would be and how much pain it would cause, I’d make the same choice I did last year.  I am stronger emotionally and spiritually because of that choice.  I am free because of it.