Monday, May 28, 2007

Courage and Gay Pride

By Diane Silver

I am an unapologetic fan of the 1990’s TV show Xena Warrior Princess. I love the steely look in her ice blue eyes. I love Xena’s confidence and her cocky strength. I love the endless snuggles with sidekick Gabrielle, but most of all I love six little words that introduced every episode.

“Her courage,” an announcer said about Xena, “will save the world.”

Saving the world is in the job description of fantasy heroes like Xena. The hero conquers the bad guys, while the masses (that would be everyday folk like you and me) are either being rescued or applauding.

As we celebrate Gay Pride this month, though, I think we need to acknowledge what each of us has done for the world. Whether we are politicians, generals, community leaders, doctors, lawyers, artists, teachers or janitors, we have all made a difference Every lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered person is just as much a hero as Xena. And, yes, our courage is truly changing the world.

What every one of us has done is to make our own heroic journey. Depending on our age, the attitudes of our communities and the religious background of our families, we may well have even battled against great odds for our physical survival. At the very least, we have emerged victorious from a psychological struggle that heterosexuals don’t have to face.

In case you haven’t guessed yet, I’m talking about the act of coming out. Every single LGBT person on the planet has done it. We may only have come out to ourselves, or we may have broadcast the news as Ellen DeGeneres’ TV character did in 1997, but we have all come out.

Each of us has had the courage to accept our own truth in a society that says we are evil, sinful, stupid, immoral, shallow, perverse, criminal, mean, lonely, sad, doomed, twisted, inadequate, sick and on and on.

I came out nearly 30 years ago, and I remember the terror as if it were yesterday. I didn’t know a single person who was gay. We weren’t on TV or in the movies then. There were no models of what my life would be if I admitted I was a lesbian, yet I, thankfully, made a leap of faith.

To come out is to be born from a struggle for authenticity. Today there are role models, books and support groups. Young men and women may find it easier to accept their orientation. Until hate mongers go out of business, though, struggle and fear will not completely disappear from the act of coming out.

To come out is to wrestle an authentic identify away from a culture that wants you to be someone else. That struggle makes us all heroes. More than that, it provides a model for a culture that is in desperate need of honesty.

We are surrounded by people who are afraid to be who they are. They are secret adventurers who toil as accountants because they fear being without a paycheck. They are spouses pretending to love partners they long ago learned to hate. They are 18-year-olds going off to college because they’re too afraid to tell their parents what they really want. They are doctors who yearn to be farmers; lawyers who daydream of becoming ministers; and all the people who live lies because they can’t face who they really are.

I don’t think it’s an accident that the phrase “coming out” has become a kind of code for being authentic. I’ve heard people talk about coming out in ways that have nothing to do with sexual orientation. I’ve even heard people talk about “coming out as a conservative” or “coming out as a Christian.”

Whether you attend gay pride, hang out a rainbow flag or ignore the celebration completely this month, take a moment. Think about your own heroic journey, and thank yourself for having the courage to be.
This column is being published this month by The Liberty Press and Camp KC. Regular blogging resumes soon.


lquilter said...

Dear Diane,

I didn't get the chance to stop & chat at WisCon, so consider this a shout-out from the halls of virtual WisCon.

I'm so glad you connected coming out to Xena's foreword. I (at 38) am certainly mindful that the courage of those who came before me (even a little before me) made my own coming out much easier -- as queer, as atheist, as opinionated in certain circumstances. I hope my own being "out" in various ways helps others. It amuses me no end to think of myself as Xena-like whenever I come out.


laura quilter

Diane Silver said...

The biggest problem with WisCon is so many people, so little time. We must find a way to sit down and really talk someday.

I firmly believe that our courage helps all -- other queers, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, of course, but even other straights who perhaps need the most courage of all.

From one Xena to another.