Anderson Cooper & Why Gay People Declare Their Sexuality

I was reading an article about Anderson Cooper coming out (which he did with great dignity, might I add) on CNN. And no matter how frequently I tell myself to stop at the last sentence of the article, my eyes once again meandered into the dangerous territory of the comment section. By and large, they weren’t that bad. I’ve unfortunately read much, much worse. In fact, I can track society’s progress on certain issues by the fact that fewer and fewer comments on articles make me want to curl up into a ball and cry about the state of humanity.

There was one comment, however, that I found simply brilliant as insight into the passively-aggressive bigoted mind. A man commented that you don’t see straight people running around everywhere shouting “I’m straight,” “I’m straight.” He went onto say that he was not against gays (of course not), he just didn’t see why they had to say anything about it, why they couldn’t just keep it to themselves.

To be quite fair, we gay people don’t have to come out. That’s true. We could, in fact, shut our mouths and go on about our lives. Some gay people choose to do exactly that. And while I have my opinions about how detrimental that is to both the individual’s own emotional state and to the world in general, that is that person’s right.

Some of us, on the other hand, choose to live our lives openly – and by ‘openly’ I mean to the same level that straight people get to live theirs without complaint from society – and that is our right. So, for the passively-aggressive bigoted mind, here are four reasons gay people come out. And for the record, coming out isn’t exactly a time of great jubilation for many, so there’s no need for the jealousy.

Reason 1 – Straight people don’t declare their sexuality?

Really? Is this something you honestly believe?

I swear 90% of newly married women use their wedding photos as their profile pics on social networking sites. And, uh, when you got engaged, how many of you straight people kept that fact on the DL? Also, this new trend of “We’re getting married. Let’s make a website that shows the world the stages of our great love affair” is hardly what I would call discreet.

Reason 2 – You don’t mean gay people shouldn’t come out. You mean gay people shouldn’t be gay.

You see, the fact is gay celebrities don’t have to release a public statement to come out. A gay actor could just show up at an awards show with his partner and behave as affectionately as is normal for them. They could hold hands, they could stand with their arms around each other, they could even kiss. This would be viewed by the rest of the world as coming out.

So, when you say that gay people shouldn’t declare their sexuality, you’re really saying they shouldn’t be gay in public. You’re really saying that gay people can exist, but you should never have to see them. Replace the word “gay” in these two sentences with “black” and the world “sexuality” with “pigmentation,” and maybe you’ll see why this is bigotry.

Reason 3 – If we don’t say that we’re gay, you will assume that we’re straight.

This probably makes you very comfortable. It makes us very uncomfortable. Right now, your passively-aggressive bigoted mind is trying to wrap itself around the notion of that. So, let me help you. Imagine that your family and friends knew you were straight, but every acquaintance, every colleague and every person you met in public assumed you were gay and frequently made oft-hand comments that let you know they thought as such. Wouldn’t like that much, now would ya?

And if the thought “But someone mistakenly thinking you’re straight isn’t an insult” just passed through your mind, congratulations! You just passed the threshold from passive-aggressive into all-out bigotry. You’re a homophobe. Pat yourself on the back.

Reason 4 – We owe you nothing.

Now hold onto yourself, passively-aggressive bigots, this may just break your brains.

Straight people are not humanity. Gay people are not outside of humanity. Straight people rule social institutions due to quantity and tradition, not due to some God-given superiority. We are all humans, and we are all equal. Not in rights, for sure, but in nature.

As people work toward civil rights – no matter what minority group it is seeking those rights – people who are not part of that group always get a disproportionate amount of praise for taking part in the movement. Since they don’t HAVE TO fight for rights, the fact that they do is seen as going above-and-beyond. To some extent, they deserve the credit they get. After all, it isn’t their fight. Even if they are successful, their lives will not change. They do it solely because they know that it is the right thing to do.

It is instinctive to want to thank those people for taking a stand with you, much as it is to thank a stranger who stops to help you pick up papers you’ve dropped in the street. They don’t have to do it, you don’t expect it of them, but they do it anyway, and you are extra grateful as a result. These people deserve acknowledgment, because they don’t allow comfort to override their human decency. That truly is a remarkable trait in this world.

Does this tendency to praise loudly and publicly distort the truth, though? I mean, how does it read to the passive-aggressive bigot?

When I see a comment like the one I saw today, it is stated with such authority –

I don’t care what they do. I just shouldn’t have to see it.

– as if the commenter has a right to make that declaration, to dictate where and when people can be themselves.

It is also stated with such arrogance, as if telling gay people that they can be gay behind closed doors is this incredibly kind thing to do.

Can we blame the passively-aggressive bigoted mind for being so blinded to their own prejudice? When a straight celebrity comes out in support of gay rights and we pile our thanks at their feet, do we send the wrong message? We say thank you, because we truly appreciate the public support, but to the passively-aggressive bigoted mind does it sound as if we are thanking straight people for allowing us to be at all?

Even the language that we ourselves – and by ourselves, I mean our representative organizations like HRC and GLAAD –  have used in the past have leant to this skewed notion. These groups have commended people for being “accepting”. They have bestowed awards upon organizations who are “tolerant”.

I cannot express how much I loathe these two words used in this manner.

I am a human being. I have a lot of bad traits. No one has to like me. Anyone who knows me well knows I’m not for everyone. People may have to tolerate the fact that I am always late. They may have to accept that I am stubborn and opinionated and can stand on my soapbox for hours. They do not, however, have  to, or have any right to, accept or tolerate the innate parts of who I am. They don’t get to permit my existence.

So, while the reasons that gay people come out are varied and deeply personal, it does bring some comfort to know that every time a gay person walks out of the closet, there is a passively-aggressive bigot realizing with frustration that they don’t have the power to keep anyone in.

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One Comment

  1. Trying not to write a novel in response, though it’s always tempting, because you’re so spot on as usual. There are some people who might never learn, but every time the discussion is raised, somebody might question what they thought was true. And someone else who was afraid might find the strength to go that step further.
    I have noticed, too, that there seems to be changes in the comment section of these articles. People need to learn, they need to realize that homophobia (or sexism, for that matter) is more than being physically violent against a person.
    That 14-year-old radio host who is now off the air said, among other offensive things, that he wanted a ‘straight pride month’? Many so-called adults still have to grow up and realize that it’s ‘straight pride’ every day. It’s not enough to say ‘but I have gay friends…’. What counts is what you do when asked to vote on policies that deny equal rights to all.
    I also read about a woman in NC who said she wouldn’t go to a particular store anymore because the couple who ran it had a ‘Vote Against’ sign. Reason? She was afraid that with more visibility and acceptance, her daughter might be ‘seduced’ into being gay. So much education to do, but I believe every coming out helps. There are studies about that, people who know someone of the lgbt-community, are more likely to be pro-gay rights. D’uh. It’s all good, but a little frustrating, too, like we have to do all the work and take a straight person by the hand?
    I imagine what could happen if everyone could lives their lives and be open about it without fear–would we still be 5-10%? 25%?

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