Why coming out still matters
Last week, Apple's CEO Tim Cook came out as a gay man. Along with congratulatory and supportive messages for his touching and empowering essay in Businessweek came the usual dismissive remarks we all hear whenever an influential person comes out.
Nobody needs to know you're gay.
Gay people should just stop "flaunting their sexuality."
Nobody cares, get over it.
It happened when Anderson Cooper came out. It happened when Wentworth Miller, Robin Roberts, and Maria Bello came out. It happened when our very own Charice came out. People are quick to say that it doesn't matter and that these celebrities' contributions are what's important.
They said that with Jason Collins but then worried about who he's seen naked in the past.
If it didn't matter, people wouldn't be annoyed that gay celebrities say it out loud. If being gay is so irrelevant, Michael Sam's kiss with his boyfriend would have been treated with the same indifference as all the other drafted players' kisses with their girlfriends or wives.
Regardless of your feelings about celebrities coming out, the fact that it may not matter to you doesn't mean it has no value to others.
Thank you for existing
Every day I get at least one letter, comment, or tweet thanking me for simply being out. Hearing me openly speak online about my sexuality, my marriage, and the mundane aspects of my life makes young people hopeful that there is a world outside (what might feel like) the big black cloud of their gayness.
When they are bullied at school, or told by their own parents or friends that who they are is wrong, the way they love is a sin, and that they are bound for hell – seeing gay people live without fear is a huge thing.
Witnessing gay people pursue their happiness is even bigger. Watching people achieve success despite the dead end or death sentence given to them because of their homosexuality – this is priceless.
When I was young, there were no gay role models in the Philippines. As young lesbians, we took our cue from the lesbian feminists who were out and proud even without role models of their own. As years went by, Ellen was catapulted into mainstream popularity. Journalists and world leaders are coming out. Marriage equality is fast becoming a reality in most of the developed world.
Locally, reporter Ryan Chua and artist Sebastian Castro are openly celebrating their relationship on a daily basis. Boy Abunda has talked about his gayness often along his path to success. Monique Wilson has also spoken up about her long-term relationship with another woman as well as the value of standing up against discrimination.
Living with examples
If you are a young boy struggling with being different, or an adolescent aware of your feelings for the same sex, every time a gay person in the spotlight says they are proud of who they are, it makes you feel a little less scared. It makes you feel that there is a place for someone like you. It helps you deal with the daily insults and misconceptions about being gay.
Despite what you are told about homosexuals, seeing a person of stature come out makes you certain of the fact that gay people are good. We are smart. We are CEOs and journalists. We are world leaders. We are not just small fry.
When LGBT people come together in communities and online forums, we see in one another opportunities to maintain friendships, build families, and reconcile our identities with what society expects from us. In our gatherings, we learn how our older friends waded through a society that was far from being inclusive. We see how the ones before us survived.
To this day, finding a gay person in the crowd continues to feel like a gift to me. It makes me feel that in a mass of people who might misunderstand me, someone has been through what I've been through and could possibly have my back.
When this person is important or popular, and is one who stands up and says they are proud to be gay, it makes you feel as a young person that whatever you are going through can be overcome, and that one day you could also be big, and important, and loved.
"For those who continue to live with the danger of being exposed for who they are, every day is a struggle."
When someone like Tim Cook says that being gay has helped him run a Fortune 500 company and that his homosexuality is "God's greatest gift" to him, we learn to honor and value what we were taught to hide and feel ashamed about, and to use it to our advantage.
The value of coming out
Not everyone is fortunate to have the support and career that allows them to come out. For those who continue to live with the danger of being exposed for who they are, every day is a struggle.
But for those who are able (but may believe it's unnecessary), I want to tell you that it matters. Maybe you feel that it has no bearing on your immediate surroundings, but someone out there will be changed by seeing you raise your hand in a crowd.
You've been there. You've felt lost and alone and scared that who you are will not allow you what is readily given to others. Your coming out matters to every hopeless young person who is looking for a foothold in a world that may not make them feel welcome.
Tim Cook gave the LGBT community a huge gift he didn't need to give, and at the cost of possibly being judged for his sexuality rather than for his own merits.
So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.
He likened his announcement to laying his own brick on the path to justice. There's no doubt he has touched the lives of many young people who heard the news.
Coming out announcements may not be as unusual as they used to be, but they are far from being irrelevant. If you feel these declarations are not important, think of them as all the other things you care about that have meaning to you - your sports personalities, your celebrity shows, your heroes and idols. Even if they mean nothing to others, you identify with them and they inspire you. Everyone lets you have your moment as a gesture of respect for your values and tastes.
Simply return the favor. Don't say coming out doesn't matter just because it doesn't matter to you. It might mean the world to others, and it might just save someone from loneliness, isolation, or physical harm.
If you still don't get it, simply look away and carry on. Return the courtesy of allowing small meaningful moments like this to change other people's lives. - Rappler.com
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