COLUMN: Live openly to bring about change
Today is National Coming Out Day, a national platform encouraging gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals to take the next step toward living openly about their sexuality.
I’ve always been a loud supporter of the importance of living out and proud, and as the vice president of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Friends student group, I’m now advocating for this in an official capacity. It’s time to be sure I practice what I preach.
So guess what Sooners? I’m bisexual and proud.
I’m not telling you this because I’m expecting it to change anything. Everyone who has ever spoken to me for more than an hour already knows.
I’m not telling you this because it’s anybody’s business — after all, no one really needs to know the details of my love life unless they want to be part of it.
I’m not even telling you this because there is anything special about Oct. 11; it’s just a day the community has chosen to address these issues.
I’m telling you this because coming out is important. And I hope that this broad gesture will have some of the same benefits that personally coming out does. Sure, it is immensely relieving to tell the people you love about your identity so you no longer have to lie and hide in your personal life. But it’s more than that.
Every person one comes out to is another person that is now aware that they personally know a GLBT person. Suddenly, it’s not so easy to blindly accept and regurgitate the stereotypes and misconceptions that plague the gay rights debate. Now,that person has to face the human aspect of their rhetoric, has to look someone in the face and say, “I’ve always liked you, but I just don’t feel like you should have the same rights I do.”
Some people will be able to do that, but a great many more will at least think twice about their views and how they apply to actual humans. I’ve seen it happen in my own life, when a loved one’s stubborn homophobia began to soften once they met an out gay man and had some frank discussions about homosexuality. I’ve seen how powerful a personal connection can be, how it can change someone’s perspective or at least get them to think about the people involved in these issues.
On a larger scale, living out and proud is a way to live for the world we want to create. I’m looking forward to a future when “coming out” is an antiquated phrase because we’ve made the closets obsolete. I’m looking forward to a future when the GLBT community is an accepted fact of life and no one feels the need to debate about how many of us there are or whether fighting for our rights is politically expedient.
They will know, because they will see us in their daily lives.
That’s where the OU community still needs work. We are lucky that we don’t face discrimination and danger around every corner here in Norman. But the biggest problem we face is our own silence. We are standing in our own way more than anything else.
We assume we have to be quiet, to hide, because this is Oklahoma. Because we come from small towns and conservative high schools and silent homes. But times are changing, and we have an opportunity to be at the forefront of that change.
We cannot afford to be silent. We cannot afford to be meek, complacent, understanding. We need to stand up and let people know that we are here, we are not ashamed and we are not going to stand silent while we are treated like second class citizens. If anyone is uncomfortable with that, it’s their problem, not ours.
GLBT students, I call on you to take the next step toward living openly this week, whatever that step may be for you. If nothing else, just make sure that you have accepted your own identity.
And straight students, you’re not off the hook. Take this week as an opportunity to support your GLBT friends and loved ones. Use the same bravery it takes for GLBT students to come out and publicly declare your support for equality. Or just help start conversations.
Real discussions are the only way to bring this debate from the land of rhetoric into the real world.
Groundbreaking activist and politician Harvey Milk said it better than I ever could, “We will not win our rights by staying silently in our closets ... We are coming out. We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions. We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I’m going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it.”
Mary Stanfield is a philosophy senior.
GO AND DO: Coming Out Week events
• WHAT: Open Mic Night
• WHEN: 8 to 11 p.m. Friday
• WHERE: Second Wind Coffee House, 564 Buchanan Ave.
• WHO: Open to anyone
• WHAT: Coming Out Day
• WHEN: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. today
• WHERE: The South Oval
• WHO: Open to anyone