“So, what are you?” is an invasive question I was once asked by a homophobic customer (this wasn’t my only run in with him since we lived in the same small, conservative suburb) I was serving about ten years ago. At first, I didn’t understand what he was asking, thinking he was referring to my job function (I was a video store manager at the time), so I asked him to clarify to which he replied, “You don’t date guys, do you?” I told him no, even though that wasn’t true (I date people, not gender labels). I just wanted him to go away because the last thing I wanted to do was attempt to educate someone that used the word “what” instead of “who” when he was talking directly to me. With that simple word, he turned me into an object, a thing, not a person.
And that is why National Coming Out day is so important, to show people that LGBTQI folks are just like everyone else–People! According to the Centers for Disease Control, LGBQ teens are twice as likely to have attempted suicide as their straight peers. Coming out can be a very scary experience (especially if you fear rejection by your loved ones), but staying in the closet is much scarier–just in a different way. The main difference between coming out and staying in the closet is how you feel about yourself: do you love or hate yourself? Coming out is an act of self-love that has nothing to do with narcissism and everything to do with realizing that you are a valuable human being who deserves to love and be loved just like all the other human beings on earth. Staying in the closet, however, teaches you and others that it is ok to hate you, to not think of you as a human being but as something that doesn’t deserve to be loved or accepted. That’s wrong, no matter what the hypocritical homophobes in power say.
Coming Out is an act of great courage, even today because, even though we’ve made great strides toward equality, there are still those who want to turn back the clock and push people back into the closet. That’s just in America; there are 81+ countries around the world that criminalize homosexuality and homosexual acts. The act of Coming Out isn’t just about not hiding, but it’s to show solidarity; to show others that they are not alone in this struggle, that they do in fact have a right to be who they are without fear.
And that is why, like so many out and proud folks, I’m lending my voice to the chorus of people coming out all over again. So here goes:
I am Queer.
I don’t identify as a woman (or a man for that matter), but I won’t be offended if you say “her” or “she.” I’ve been called “sir” numerous times, and once I was called “young man” by an Army recruiter. I’ve been called a “dyke,” a “lesbo,” and I was even mistaken for being a Trans-Man once. I have dated men and women and a pre-operation transgendered woman since I came out over twenty years ago. Although I find many different types of people attractive (I’m a major fan of inner beauty), the number of people I’ve fallen in love with can be counted on one hand. I am not ashamed of who I am, nor will I allow people to tell that I should be, and I damn sure know that there is nothing wrong with loving people.
And what I should have said to that jerk way back then is, “I’m a Human Being.”