Coming out and reading up

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Oct. 11 was National Coming Out Day and the whole month is designated LGBT History Month. Join me in celebrating!

In the immortal words of Rob Eichman, who wrote the first and best book about the subject: Coming out is an act of love. It shows you love yourself enough to be honest with others about who you are. It enhances others’ love and understanding of you and gives them the opportunity – if they choose to take it, and most do – to demonstrate their unconditional love for you.

Coming out is an act of courage. It isn’t always easy. You have to be prepared to answer personal and challenging questions. You have to be willing to endure the consequences, which can sometimes include ridicule or rejection. You have to be ready for everything.

Coming out is an act of defiance. Although it’s changing, social conditioning continues to promote the classic pink-blue/girl-boy heterosexist dichotomy. It’s strange realizing you tend more toward lavender or polka-dots or glitter. Once you work it out, shout it out, and tell others to get over it.

Coming out is an act of pride. It means the end of hiding and pretenses and the beginning of self-respect. You feel good about yourself and set an example for others. You join a community of people who have traversed the same path and come out stronger and wiser.

Coming out is revolutionary. Polls show that folks with friends and loved ones who are gay are more likely to support their right to equality under the law. Homophobes are wrong. We can’t “recruit” people into being gay, but we do have the power to recruit allies when we are honest about who we are. With these allies, we are beginning to change the world.

If you haven’t done so yet, come out to someone in your family, workplace or neighborhood. You’ll feel great and the world will be a better place because of it.

For LGBT History Month, I recommend reading “Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas” by Dale Carpenter. 

“Flagrant Conduct” is a fascinating account of the U.S. Supreme Court case that found the Texas sodomy statute unconstitutional in 2003. The court declared that the law was a violation of the due process rights of the plaintiffs. It essentially voided criminal sanctions against consensual homosexual relations that remained a huge impediment to our social and legal equality.

The story has many interesting, ironic dimensions. The two men arrested for violating the law never engaged in sexual relations. Testimony by the cops called to the scene differed drastically. The original Houston prosecutor assisted the defense by agreeing to a fine larger than that initially imposed to meet a procedural requirement for the right to appeal.

The district attorney who bungled the state’s argument at the Supreme Court was a “family values” guy who later resigned in disgrace after admitting an extra-marital affair. The attorney who successfully argued the case had been a closeted clerk for Justice Lewis Powell who, in 1986, voted in support of Georgia’s sodomy law.

Reading the Lawrence v. Texas ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy stated: “The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives. The state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime.”

Observers in the court wept. You may too as the significance of this case hits home.