Posted by purplemary54 on February 10, 2014
NFL prospect Michael Sam has officially come out as a gay man to the press; his college team at the University of Missouri already knew. He wanted to own his own story before he went to the NFL, which is just as good a reason for coming out as any.
My mother will undoubtedly say she doesn’t understand all this business about “coming out.” “It’s nobody’s business who you sleep with,” she says pretty much every time a public figure of some sort comes out. I try to let it go, but her attitude gets to me. She’s right; who you sleep with isn’t anybody’s business. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight or asexual. Your sexuality is just another aspect of the person you are. It should be the most private thing in the world, kept between you and your chosen partner(s).
Except that it isn’t. Being gay right now is a lot like being black in the Jim Crow era–with the obvious exception of the fact that no one has to “come out” as black. There are too many places in this world where homosexuality is legislated against, where rights are denied because of sexuality, where people can be imprisoned or murdered because of who they love. And until such bigotry and hate is gone from the world, coming out will matter.
Because every time someone like Michael Sam comes out, some of the ignorance of the world gets chipped away. For many years, people have use their ignorance and fear to justify their bigotry. “I don’t know any gay people” is essentially code for “I think they’re too different from me, and I’m afraid of them.” Not knowing a gay person is used as part of the justification and rationale for discrimination. For every gay person that comes out, there is an exponential number of people who can now say they know a gay person. And they can see that gay people aren’t any different than they are. And the justifications and rationale fall apart. That’s how discrimination will finally be stopped.
So until there are no longer any laws against same-sex marriage, until there is no place where GLBTQ people do not feel threatened or unsafe, coming out will matter. The personal is political.