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As of late, there has been so much discussion to coming out of the closet. It started off as a reaction to Jodie Foster’s speech at the Golden Globes and progressed into a heated, bitter debate. In the mist of all this, a notion that there is some sort of criteria you have to meet in order to live up to everyone else’s standards. Imagine that, the LGBT community setting another set of standards we have to meet in order to have an adequate coming out story.

Never mind the fact that these criteria negate the entire process of others looking to come out. Because when you have finally reached the point and admit to yourself that you’re gay, there’s a breadth of emotion to the process. Because it is a process.

I vividly remember my process. It began with…

…wondering first and foremost would those that I love most would support me. Petrified to discover if their love is conditional on you being a certain way. …beginning to speculate how everyone else in this world will treat you because of it. …it’s a process…with each person you tell, it feels freeing and terrifying at the same time because they know something about you so meaningful that they can try to use that against you. …I’m beginning to wonder if this was even worth it.

…Fear the fact that I will always have to be aware of my surroundings because of either my race or because I’m gay because someone may try to harm me because of it. I can be fired for being gay. I should just suppress and not talk about it to anyone when I get a job  …constantly asking myself if/when people are going to stop talking about this. …it’s a process …Was coming out really important. Maybe, just maybe I was wrong to come out in the first place. …becoming so sick and tired of every damn thought and action feeling like it is a result of me being gay.

…so sick of my straight friends asking if I’m checking them out. There’s so much hassle to this. I’m still Sly …it’s a process…I keep staring off into the distance wondering why God made me this way and if this notion of him believing that I am a sinner for being gay will make him take out his vengeful wrath upon me to bring this cure through prayer or strike me down as a result of questioning his infinite way. …surprised by how you deal with the same feelings when you come out are the same as when you’re in the closet…. always angry. …deeply sad. …feeling so alone. …scared. …I cannot and will not give up no matter what.

..just keep going because this is a process…learning about a friend going through the same process of coming out and heard he ended his life because he was too afraid to face it. have to do everything in my power to ensure I do not share the same fate …I am more determined than ever to embrace this no matter what. I don’t care what anyone else says because I’m not living for them. there is nothing wrong with being gay. Gay. …I’ve accepted this in due part to me being an African American. because I have had to accept the persecution of others because I’m an African American male, looked down upon no matter how smart I am, no matter how helpful and kind I treat others. But that is not my fault because there is nothing wrong with being an African American or being gay. One of the biggest reasons that I am so thankful to be an African American is that it helped me not only accept, but also love being gay. I love being gay. I love me.  

Everything you see that’s italicized was my process as it was written down in my journal entries over eight years ago.  Not everyone’s experiences, thoughts, or anything else associated with this process are the same. There’s most likely things and emotions you recognize from my experience and some others that you don’t. No two people are the same and we don’t process any situation or event is the same. But we all went through this life changing event that profoundly affected us. I’m not famous and probably will never reach that status. I’m not trying to be so I do not know all the pros and cons to having money and being privileged. Money can’t make everything go away.

But I do know that money will not take away this process from happening. Why? Because of my race. Because even though  growing up in a -multi-ethnic, multi-religion multi-everything else military town I still face racism. I still face homophobia. Throwing money at race didn’t make those issues go away from James Earl Jones or Denzel Washington and why would it? People will still judge them and me based solely on the color of my skin. When you’re gay, you’re presented with the similar discriminatory issues. I’m not asking them to pick up and campaign against these issues. If I want those changes to happen, I have to do more to make it happen.

Privilege continues to come up in these conversations yet many fail to see the advantages provided to them each and every day because of their race. Do you know what it’s like to have to deal with both racism and homophobia at the same time? I could argue quite effectively how that gives gay Caucasian men privilege over me or any other ethnic minority LGBT member of this community.  So let’s talk about that privilege.

Should we talk about the both covert and blatant racism in the LGBT community, especially among gay men that makes it harder to come out and be welcomed in this community? That when you try to discuss this with certain LGBT leaders that they have the gall to say you’re playing a race card? The very ignorant belief that  you can’t be racist because you’re gay is a sad, yet common belief. You see, this notion of privilege is subjective at best. Formed by our own opinion and experiences, but not always based in fact. So maybe when you talk about other’s privilege you should think about your own and consider how that ideology is a part of the problem.

I’ve been ranting against this idea of privilege and that there’s a right/wrong way to come out nonstop. When I first began writing this two days ago it was filled with evidence of how many of these activists and bloggers are so hypocritical on this topic (and I may still write it as it needs to be addressed) because I am furious that this standard of coming out is expected instead of welcoming everyone no matter what. We all know what that’s like to be treated differently so why are we trying to employ this elitist, homogeneous ideal?

Would I love to see everyone that comes out be an activist as it helps promote and advance the cause? Of course but I don’t see these people that are condemning Jodie Foster doing the same to Matt Dallas. Frank Ocean, Victor Garber, Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer, Zachary Quinto or Anderson Cooper for the way they came out. When will they be scrutinized and asked what they are doing or not doing for the LGBT community? You don’t have to be an example for everyone else. You only have to be you. So these people saying how they want things done should get busy doing the things they want to see in others themselves.

Be more of the instrument that fosters (pun intended) in what you want to see instead of wasting all this time trying to prove that you’re right and that there’s some ridiculous code of conduct to coming out. I have literally argued about this for three days now. I was so ready to get down in the mud and get mean, but then something amazing happened. I began to receive messages from all walks of life telling me of their process. I was so deeply moved by it and am forever thankful for their stories. Amazingly complex but different stories of processing coming out. That solidified even further my belief that this process of coming out is unique to each of us but we still have a process. It changes our perspective on everything.

So I began to write this the way I had always intended. To hope that my experience relates enough to the topic so we can discuss it . I will not always get it right nor will I always agree but always treat everyone with respect. And do my best to make this a community in which EVERYONE is welcome. So no, there is no criteria to coming out because we all went through something powerful and unique. No matter how a person comes out, we should welcome them. I only hope that everyone else in this community begins to do the same.

 

About the author

Sly Merritt has written 383 articles on this blog.

Sly Merritt has a BA in psychology/sociology. MA in clinical psychology. He's a flip flop wearing hippy with a peaceloving mindset. Even pacifists like him know when it's time to do all we can for LGBTQ equality. Sly's views are all opinions not advice.

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