Thursday, October 11, 2012

National Coming Out Day

Sometimes, October 11th arrives and leaves without me feeling like I need to blare show tunes, be my own George Hearn proclaiming out loud "I am what I am". But most October 11ths arrive and leave with the need to shout loudly "I'm proud, I'm queer" in a butch rendition of a high school cheerleader. It is a day of mixed emotion, a day that reminds me that although I've been out for more than thirty years, homophobia still rears its head. And on the eve of a vice-presidential election, I do worry about my freedoms, about the hate that still wants to keep me less than equal.

On campus today, we celebrated the day by placing tables out on the main hallway, hanging signs celebrating Gay Pride, sitting tall and proud. A group of courageous students sat with me for two hours, chatting with allies, while the majority of people walked by us, not stopping, not making eye contact, even if the cake we were serving looked delicious. I'm used to that, but somehow today I thought it would be different.

Recently, a homophobe(s) ripped off a GLBT symbol from a campus history timeline posted in the middle of campus, leaving a blank space where a celebration of the campus' GLBT Resource Center once made its public mark. That act felt personal because of my work to establish the center, because of all the work I put into making the campus safe for GLBT students, faculty, and staff. To lead in the shadows of intolerance takes my vigilance, my strength, and sometimes a bit of my heart.

And it was my expectation of things being different that stung. In response to the recent campus event, the President of the college sent out a very strong email proclaiming her commitment to inclusiveness and establishing a clear statement about intolerance and bigotry. Even with this genuine support from the top, people didn't show up. Being an ally means showing up, means support.

It is a topsy turvy moment, a crossroads of a day. I cannot celebrate the day without the memory that tomorrow is the anniversary of Matthew Shephard's death. I cannot celebrate the day without remembering that I cannot marry.

But fortunately, when my own seesaw steadies, I celebrate the day being so out and proud. That is mine.


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