Respect.

Today is National Coming Out Day. For those unfamiliar with the term, a quick explanation might be in order. On National Coming Out Day, gay men and women announce to those around them that they’re gay, be it a family member, a co-worker, the newspaper or the world. It’s a support mechanism of sorts in order to show the world and each other, there are a lot of us, and we’re not alone.

I’ve never had to come out on National Coming Out Day because ever since my first day of college I’ve been pretty much out (and somewhat before then). Well, I take that back. In the early days I didn’t deny that I was gay by any means but I didn’t discuss it if the subject didn’t come up. I now look at that as sort of a cowardly approach. Now I don’t think one should be sitting around the dining room table at a family gathering and declare, “The chicken is delicious, please pass the salt, by the way I’m gay, how about some fudge for dessert?”

While my early approach lasted until 1990 or so with many (I had told a few folks back in the mid 80s)and the mid 90s with a selected few (mostly my family), my commitment to Earl changed my feelings about how out I was going to be. I was in love (still am!) and for the first time in my life, I felt that I had found the love of my life and I wanted the world to know it. I hid from no one. And you know what? It was around that time that I felt I earned the respect of those around me. My family members, my friends and my co-workers truly respected me. I wasn’t hiding anything. I wasn’t in a closet peeking out of the louvers like some weird Hee-Haw skit, here I was, door wide open, take me as I am. And you know what else? If they didn’t like me because I’m gay than I guess we didn’t really have much in common anyway.

Now I don’t believe in standing up and making this huge proclamation that you’re gay. While I occasionally have a flair for the dramatic (I could be the long lost son of Maurice and Endora), I don’t believe in making a big deal about it. It’s not a big deal. I’m gay, so what. If it’s a big deal to you, well, that’s your problem. If you try to restrict my rights or beliefs or disrespect me or my partner because of it, well, then we have a different sort of problem that probably isn’t going to be pretty.

At my last job interview (which was for my current job of two years, by the way), I was able to confirm to my future supervisor and department director about my sexual orientation without having some awkward conversation. I didn’t change or neutralize the pronouns when talking about my personal life, my partner is a “he” and he’ll always be a “he”. And I still got the job. It was one of the biggest breaths of fresh air I ever had in my life simply becuase I was just being honest. I wasn’t worried that I would be looked over for the position just because I’m gay; if that’s the reason they pass me over then I don’t want to be working for them anyway. No hiding, no secrets, I am what I am.

So if you’re gay, peeking around the closet door and wondering what to do today, just take a step out and tell someone, anyone, that you’re gay, even if it means admitting it to yourself by looking at your image in the mirror. You deserve the self-respect and those around deserve the respect of you telling them the truth.

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