Friday, April 29, 2011

O is for "Out"

This afternoon we continue with our A-Z Challenge and today’s letter is “O”…

O is for Out

The word ‘out’ is used in many common English phrases. “Out of this world,” “Outta sight,” and “Get out of here” are all ones that come to mind. As a gay person, though, the phrase I think of when I hear the word “out” is “out of the closet.”
Coming out of the closet, for a gay person, means to let the world know that you’re gay. A common question amongst gay people when they first meet is “are you out?” Of course, with the world being what it is today, more people are “out” than ever before, but there are still many who aren’t, for whatever reason, and that’s a real shame.

Outing oneself is never an easy thing. Because of how the world is, you really never know how people will react, and that’s what makes it hard. I’ve been out to my family since I was 19 years old. I have many friends today that know I’m gay, more now than ever before, but there are still people in my life who don’t know. I made a vow to myself that if anyone ever asked me if I was gay I wouldn’t lie, and I haven’t. In fact, that’s how my family found out…my mother asked me. (You can read all about it here.)

There is still one situation, though, where I would surely break that promise. Once again, my teaching job is a quandary for me. Since I teach ESL to six different grades in a small school district, I am very close with my students. I have the same base of kids year after year and we all get to know each other pretty well. I often find myself playing the fatherly role in addition to my teaching duties, but I haven’t and probably never will come out to them directly. I once wrote a deeply reflective piece on it which you can read here.

Overall, the people who matter in my life all know about me and that’s something I can be satisfied with, for I can remember a time where I lived a double life, terrified at the very prospect of being “outed.” With that said, I can understand, yet still regret the fact that there are so many gay people out there that people don’t know about. Though celebrities come to mind, really anyone who chooses to out themselves helps the cause by breaking down the barriers of prejudice that exist for gay people everywhere.

I often tell my Hispanic students that when they interact with Americans, they are representing all Latinos and the quality of those interactions will work to show some people that their prejudices are unwarranted. The same goes for gay people. The more any homophobic person gets to know an out gay person, the more they will realize that their preconceived notions are not true for every gay person. Gay people are just as varied and diverse as any other group and we don’t all fit the so-called “gay” stereotype.

As for celebrities, of course they have the biggest opportunity to break down the barriers of hate. Many gay outlets choose to try and “out” celebrities on purpose, whether for vindictiveness or for publicity for themselves. This action, known as “outing,” is wrong, plain and simple. People must come out of the closet when they know it’s right for them, and it’s no one else’s business if and when they do. I understand the frustration of those who engage in the practice of outing, because they know what another famous person coming out of the closet would do for the rest of us. But just as it is personal for all of us, it is personal for them, too, and they must do it in their own time.

So I am glad I’m out…mostly, lol. My own life has been better since the people in my life have learned this part of me, and I like to think that I’ve broken down some prejudices along the way, too. There’s a tune that was written for the show La Cage Au Follies that says it all. The song was recorded by disco diva Gloria Gaynor and it not only fits the life of a gay person, but everyone who is unique in their own special way. Enjoy ‘I Am What I Am’:

I Am What I Am - Ten Best / The Millennium Versions

Here are the lyrics to the song:

I Am What I Am

I am what I am
I am my own special creation
So come take a look
Give me the hook or the ovation

It's my world that I want to have a little pride in
My world and it's not a place I have to hide in
Life's not worth a dam
Till you can say, hey world, I am what I am

I am what I am
I don't want praise, I don't want pity
I bang my own drum
Some think it's noise, I think it's pretty

And so what if I love each feather and each bangle
Why not try to see things from a different angle
Your life is a sham
Till you can shout out loud, I am what I am

I am what I am
And what I am needs no excuses
I deal my own deck
Sometimes the ace, sometimes the deuces

There's one life and there's no return and no deposit
One life so it's time to open up your closet
Life's not worth a dam
Till you can say, hey world, I am what I am

No comments:

Post a Comment