Thursday, September 07, 2006

Being out is a wonderful thing. If you can do it. I’ve been thinking about it because of National Coming Out Day, which is coming up in October. Personally, I am out to a very few coworkers (only the safest people, because of my job), a few friends and to my ex-husband’s family. That’s it for now. Oh, and to the folks at AARP. My wife, on the other hand is totally out at work, and with most people that she deals with. But not to her aunt (her only living relative). Since I've been thinking about coming out, I've been thinking of the pros and cons to being out. And since I'm obsessive-compulsive, I have sorted some of those pros and cons into what I call Personal Pros and Cons and Global Pros and Cons.
Personal Pros
Number one on this list has to be not having to think before you speak. It’s just so much easier, isn’t it? If you are out, there are no secrets to hide (at least not about your sexual orientation). My wife is out at work. Everyone knows about us and asks her about me and about our son, just like with a heterosexual marriage. I say that the people at her job deserve a huge commendation for being as open minded as they are. But I guess that since she works for the ‘liberal media’, that sort of thing is to be expected.

Number two on the Personal Pro list is that when you sign up for AARP, and you give them your spouse’s name, they give them benefits also. We were very surprised when my AARP card came and there was also one for my wife. And she isn’t but 42! She is actually receiving AARP benefits a whole 8 years early! Can you imagine anything any more thrilling than getting AARP benefits when you are only 42? It is a bittersweet reward though, because now, what does she have to look forward to when she turns fifty? (And on a side note, in the AARP magazine, there are references to and letters from the queer community. Who knew getting old could be this affirming?)

Global Pros
Well, there is this thing about being a positive role model for the younger queers out there…generation Q. The more people that are out, the better for those coming up. Personally, I look forward to the day that I retire for good from my teaching job, tell everyone that I am a big old dyke, remind them of the good things that that they have said and/or thought about me, and see how that jives in their mind with me being a lesbian. I personally think that homophobia will not be won by mass demonstrations and showing of power. I believe that homophobia is conquered one person at a time. Every time one of us comes out, the people that we know are touched by the fact that someone that they like or love or admire or enjoy being with is a homosexual. And that is what will change the opinions of the world.

Personal Cons
Number 1 on this list: Isn’t it obvious? Loss of job, loss of income, loss of house, loss of car, loss of food etc. Here’s what goes through my mind before I think about speaking of my wife or just being queer in general. Who am I talking to? What do they know? WHO do they know? How can they use this information against me? Will they tell someone who will tell someone who will use this against me? It’s like playing Six Degrees of Queer Bashing. (You may laugh, but this actually happened to me. I slipped and introduced my wife as my wife to someone without thinking it through to the end of the equation. She told a friend, who told a friend, who works at my school. I had to go explain my position to this person and hope for the best. I was lucky, but I haven't forgotten the lesson.) I guess that even when you are out, your mind must go to such thoughts too, but maybe it just doesn’t matter. I think that one’s job would have a lot to do with the worry of being out. Some jobs are "queer friendly" and some are not. For example, I am a teacher. I work with young special education students. I do a lot of diaper changing and potty training. Some of my students can’t talk. It’s just too easy for someone who does not like homosexuals to cook up a scenario to cause me grief and maybe cost me my job. (If you think this doesn't happen, you haven't been paying attention to the news for the past 20 years.) And with only two years left before I actually go home, I don’t want anything throwing this off course. If I left now, I would be leaving behind a pretty good chunk of change, thanks to DROP. Maybe I’m imagining too much here. But I don’t want to try it and find that my worst thoughts are true. Better to wait two years than lose future financial security by taking a stand on this issue at this time. Call me a coward, but I just can’t risk it.

Personal Con Number 2: Harassment. I know that men have more to worry about than we do on this issue, but I still don’t particularly want to be harassed. Verbal harassment is fine, I can take that, but I don’t want physical harassment at my age. Remember, I have a hip just waiting to be broken!

Personal Con Number 3 -Upsetting old people. My wife has an aunt who is in her 80’s. She is fairly religious (except for the cocktails that she enjoys quite often), and really has a dislike for homosexuals. She has made this perfectly clear in the past. She is my wife’s only relative, and my wife is her only relative. She thinks that I am a very good friend of my wife and she does allow me to help her with things every now and then, if my wife is not able to help her at that time. We KNOW that coming out to her would upset her, and so we choose not to. She needs us, and we see no benefit in upsetting her and causing her to be estranged from her one relative. As far as we are concerned, she will never know. I must add that if she were a little more open-minded, we would tell her. For instance, my ex-husband’s mother (who is like my mother, but only better) knows all about us. She loves my wife, no, make that adores my wife. She is in her 70’s, but much more open minded. She calls us both her daughters (really).

Global Cons Well, I can’t think of any. And to tell the truth, my Personal Cons are really just rationalization. I know that being out is important, and I will come out. WAY out. Give me a couple of years, and I will be right out there in front leading the Pride Parade! Well, if Shreveport had a Pride Parade. OK, maybe I’ll start the first Shreveport, Louisiana Pride Parade. My wife and I could be in it, the Bad Little Dog, maybe even Pooh Dog. I can just see the Bad Little Dog in her rainbow finery, growling at bystanders. We could throw her at any protesters we might have. That would shut them up! Any suggestions for the parade? Let me know. It’s never too early to start planning!


At 6:18 PM, Blogger GoGo said...

I was thinking about blogging about this myself. I just came to the realization that I will always have points in my life where I have to come out again and again. Short of sending a monthly newsletter to the world that I am gay, there is always someone who needs it spelled out for them. I've choosen the being out over not b/c the self-silence hurts more then the judgements. And it keeps the power of who I am in my pocket, not others. They will judge whether I am out or not.

Thanks for sharing your words. I am glad to learn AARP is supportive.

At 2:53 PM, Blogger getalife said...

How sad there are people all over this country who must struggle with this question every day. I agree being an educator makes things unfairly tough due to the erroneous perceptions of some that homosexual equals child predator.

Why aren't we seeing every Catholic school in the country close since there seems to be a link between being a priest and being a child predator?

As usual, people make the connections they wish to make.

At 3:11 PM, Anonymous Conor J. Murphy said...

You are absolutely dead on. Homophobia IS conquered one person at a time. When people get to know you, all their preconceived notions fly out the window on what it is to be gay. I suppose more conservative straight people have this idea that we are all chap wearing, finger snapping, pride flag carrying, cross dressing, deviant homos and when they get to know us as individuals, they realize that we have relationships and start families. They realize that we go to work and church and have bills to pay. We do laundy on the weekend and mow the lawn. When straight America realizes just how BORING we are, that's when the battle against homophobia will be one.

Love you gals as always,

At 4:24 PM, Blogger The dykes next door said...

Conor, yeah, that was the idea behind this whole blog. I think that people imagine us and our "alternative lifestyle" as if the men are all flitting to the circuit parties, wearing outfits that would make Richard Simmons blush, and the women are all either the type that we see in straight men's lesbian porn (love those long fingernails) or the ice pick weilding, straight man murdering variety. But like you said, we have a mortgage, jobs, children, we pay taxes, vote, pay our bills, just like everyone else. And OUR big Friday night consists of going out to eat (either by ourselves or with our son, if he's available), going to Barnes and Noble book store, and maybe...if we are really up for some excitement, to Target. How this is hurting heterosexual marriage or making heterosexual people nervous about us even existing is beyond me. I'll never figure those type of people out. I guess that they are so unhappy with themselves and their life that they don't want anyone to be happy either. Too late! We are blissful. Truly blissful. When I met my wife, I knew that I was home. That's the only way to put it. It was like I had been on this alien planet and now I had found my way home. And they can hate me all they want. I'm too happy to care.


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