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The Importance of Being Out - Mo's Journal
May 23rd, 2008
10:02 am

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The Importance of Being Out
Time and again, polls show that support for equal rights for gay men and lesbians is strongly correlated with a yes answer to this question: Do you know any gay men or lesbians? The latest evidence of this is in connection with the current struggle in California.

California's state constitution has strong enough provisions on equal rights that the majority Republican State Supreme Court recently ruled that the state cannot deny same-sex couples marriage licenses. OTOH, California's state constitution is also one of the more easily amendable ones - all it will take to change the constitution and undo the work of the court is a majority voting to deny gay and lesbian Californians equal marriage rights this November.

It's unclear which way the vote will go at the moment, as well as how this issue and the presidential election will intersect. A majority - but a small one - is in favor of the amendment, according to current polls. It may be that the homophobes will come out in force and not only overrule the court decision but also help McCain to the White House. OTOH, Obama's appeal among younger voters (who are more likely to be in favor of equal rights for lesbians and gay men) may defeat the amendment and help him become POTUS.

One thing that is clear, though, is that those people who know that they know gay men and lesbians are less likely to want to deny us our rights. Everyone knows gay men and lesbians - not everyone knows that they know some of us. From today's LA Times:

"Indeed, the poll found that views on gay marriage were greatly influenced by personal connections. Of those who said they knew a friend, a family member or a co-worker who was gay, nearly half approved of the court's ruling -- more than twice the proportion among those who said they were not acquainted with a gay person.

The divide was as stark when it came to the proposed constitutional amendment: 70% of voters who said they did not know a gay person would vote for it, a position taken by just 49% of voters who said they knew a gay person."

The one thing we can do - as individuals - to help our cause is to come out, early and often and every chance we get. It's a whole lot easier to demonise people you don't know. It's a lot harder to deny your neighbors, your relatives, your cow-orkers, your customers, and your friends
the rights you enjoy. Let every day be National Coming Out Day.

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From:executrix
Date:May 23rd, 2008 02:48 pm (UTC)
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There could be two directions of responses, though. Best-case is people thinking, "Gee, my child/sibling/friend/co-worker/pastor is a pretty decent person, so if ze is gay, then maybe being gay isn't so bad." Worst-case is "I guess I was wrong about this person, if ze is gay, then I should never have loved, cared about, relied on this person."

On the good-news front, though, Witt v. Dept of the Air Force, 08 CDOS 6117 (9th Cir. 2008), the first post-Lawrence review of a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" case says that in order to uphold the discharge of Air Force Major Margaret Witt, it will have to prove not only that discharging her under DADT (she lived off-base with a civilian partner) significantly furthers the government's interest in maintaining unit discipline, but there were no less intrusive alternatives available. The Ninth Circuit pointed out that the discharge was a lot more disruptive than her having a female partner. The Ninth Circuit stopped short of treating sexual orientation as entitled to the same protection from discrimination as sex, race, or religion, but refused to rubber-stamp DADT. The case was remanded for more fact-finding.
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From:mofic
Date:May 23rd, 2008 02:52 pm (UTC)
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There could be two directions of responses, though. Best-case is people thinking, "Gee, my child/sibling/friend/co-worker/pastor is a pretty decent person, so if ze is gay, then maybe being gay isn't so bad." Worst-case is "I guess I was wrong about this person, if ze is gay, then I should never have loved, cared about, relied on this person."

Absolutely. And I've certainly been subject to the latter. But my point is that, consistently over a period of at least 50 years, polls show that more people go the best-case way.
From:thelastgoodname
Date:May 23rd, 2008 05:57 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for reminding me, once again, that what I go through every day to come out and be out actually has consequences far more reaching that just for my own life.

It's also the same reason why it's so important for people in positions of respect to be out -- teachers, doctors, politicians. If we know that people we are structurally positioned to trust are also gay, being gay is no longer something to distrust. And while that scenario makes more likely executrix's other response, I still think it's important.
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From:mofic
Date:May 23rd, 2008 07:36 pm (UTC)
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It is important - and not just for personal integrity - although it's sometimes hard to remember. And I agree on people in positions of respect, both for the reasons you say and also as examples for the closeted.

A closeted colleague at my former employer told me - years after the fact - about being so affected by a conversation she heard me (mid-level manager at the time) having with a senior officer at the bank in an elevator. He was asking about my partner's pregnancy and how she was doing and talking about his wife's pregnancy. I have no memory of the conversation - I have no doubt it happened, it's just that to me it was a regular small talk elevator conversation. But to her it was tremendously exciting to think that someone could be that out, even if she was not yet ready to take even small steps towards coming out at work.

Our actions do have consequences - sometimes more than we think they do.
From:thelastgoodname
Date:May 23rd, 2008 07:44 pm (UTC)
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We must be the change we want to see in the world.
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From:mofic
Date:May 23rd, 2008 07:50 pm (UTC)
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That's a catchy line. Someone should use it for a campaign slogan :-).
From:thelastgoodname
Date:May 23rd, 2008 08:05 pm (UTC)
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Gandhi already did, I think. (Or if he didn't, he should have.)
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From:talktooloose
Date:May 26th, 2008 02:49 pm (UTC)
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Very important message; thanks. Of course, people might tend to be out in communities that are more accepting... the same communities that might be predisposed to voting favourably. But ever community needs the brave pioneers who come out earlier and make it easier for others. Yay for the snowball effect.

Hey, junk box alert. I sent Ch. 21 on Saturday.
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From:mofic
Date:May 27th, 2008 08:54 pm (UTC)
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I sent you a beta'ed version - I think to the right address.

On the original post, I do agree that the cause/effect line is kind of blurry, since it's easier to be out some places and in some milieus.

I had a c-section with my first pregnancy (really, this will be connected). I didn't expect to, but being a compulsive consumer of information I had read up on surgical deliveries along with everything else. And I found out that the best determiner of whether a woman had an easy recovery from section was if she walked soon after the birth. Now, I had my doubts about cause and effect there, since it could well be that the women who were walking an hour after birth were *already* healing well. OTOH, it seemed worth a try. I figured, what's the worst that can happen? I'll fall down. So, when a nurse came by an hour after Doran was born and asked if I wanted to try walking, I said, "Okay."

"What did you say?" she asked, incredulously.

"I said 'okay' - I'll try."

"Are you sure?"

"Well isn't the best determiner of an easy recovery from c-section walking soon after birth?"

"Yes, that's why we ask. But nobody ever said 'yes' before."

I still don't know what's cause and what's effect, but I had the easiest recovery of anyone I know.
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From:talktooloose
Date:May 27th, 2008 09:26 pm (UTC)
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LORF! (and ouch). You always were a trooper.

My sister also had a C-section with her first pregnancy. She was able to have two normal labours after that. Were you also? (I'm not even sure how many of your kids you carried).

We should pick up the phone and be talking in three media this hour!
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From:mofic
Date:May 28th, 2008 01:09 pm (UTC)
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We took turns giving birth, so I gave birth to the first and third. And I did have a VBAC with Zara.

We should pick up the phone and be talking in three media this hour! LOL! Sometimes I do that with my sister, although it's email, facebook and phone.
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