In the real world Coming Out is a risk

This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness
Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well
as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here.
Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from

So another famous person comes out of the
closet and there are many reactions. Some of which are great, some of
which are awful for obvious reasons, some of which are awful for less
obvious reasons – and there’s one that always annoys me: someone
who wants to know what the fuss is about

This comes from two sources. Either the homophobe
who finds all this GBLT stuff so very icky and would rather we hide
it and not be so open and icky everywhere. Or the oh-so-progressive
ally who wants to show just how NORMAL being GBLT is to them that they
don’t understand why anyone cannot be so totally blasé about
the whole GBLT thing, why they’re surrounded by GBLT people, have
a full stable of GBLT friends and barely even notice sexuality or gender
identity any more, they’re just so enlightened, precious.

I’m sure we’ve seen the lines:

 “Why is everyone making so much of a fuss?” “Why is it
relevant?” “It shouldn’t matter whether people are GBLT or not”

No, it shouldn’t. It shouldn’t be a big
fuss. We should live in a world where a full range of sexualities and
gender identities are fully accepted and integrated into our daily lives.
We should live in a world where straightness and cisness isn’t assumed.
We should live in a world where we could go into any industry, any element
of the media, every place where human beings live anywhere on Earth
and be confident in finding a full range of sexualities and gender identities
happily part of society as full and equal participants.

We should also live in a world without people
starving to death, people dying from diseases that can easily be cured
and one without Tories, Tea Partiers and the alien creature on Donald
Trump’s head that’s feeding on his brain. We should also live in
a world where I didn’t see a picture yesterday of a gay teen who was
starved, beaten, had his arms broken and was forced to eat faeces before
he died.

We don’t live in this world, alas. We live
in this world. The real world – yes it’s a very unpleasant
place but it’s discouraged to take more than brief holidays away from

In the real world there are vast swathes of just about every aspects
of life where we don’t exist at all. Entire media forms where we’re
less common than an honest man in the Houses of Parliament or a decent
man in the Vatican. And like seeing a penguin waddling through the Sahara,
seeing a GBLT person in these places is noteworthy and unusual.

In the real world there are places that are
actively hostile to us. And by that I mean more actively hostile than
the rest of the world – so angry sabre tooth tigers as opposed
to the angry rotweilers that greet us everywhere else. Seeing one of
us enter these spaces is a cause for celebration since it means the
Dreaded Gay Agenda is Advancing and we’re one step closer to crushing
the straight world under our Fabulous Pink Jackboot! *ahem* I mean,
that’s another avenue open to us that was considered closed and forever
out of reach.

In the real world we are underrepresented
over and over again, not just in visibility but also in power and influence.
We’re ignored, we’re dismissed,  we’re considered unimportant
and we’re often, at best, forgotten by the straight, cis rulers of
this world or, at worst, actively attacked and driven out. Any expansion
of our presence is an expansion of our influence, every expansion of
that is an expansion of our defence in a world full of cis, straight
people who have frequently tried to exterminate us. Yes, that sounds
awfully dramatic, but it’s true. For vast swaths of history, straight
cis folk have tried to kill us en mass. Any advancement that makes us
more visible and more influential in making this not happen again is
something I cling to. Yes it seems silly to have “working not to be
exterminated” on the to do list – but not nearly as much as it is

In the real world our youth have to struggle
to find role models like them. In the real world our youth are taught
there are professions, careers, places, cultures, societies, they can’t
be part of, shouldn’t be part of and should never aim for. In the
real world, our youth are still considered aberrations, corrupted, ill,
sick, broken. In the real world, seeing more Out, proud and successful
GBLT people will be a light that shines to them, a goal to aim for,
a shelter to hide under.

In the real world, our parents are often ashamed
of us. They blame themselves for failing when they created us or when
they raised us. They blame us for shaming them, for spiting them, for
failing to fit the model they planned for us. Both they and we need
to counter that assumption of failure, of shame, of brokenness.

In the real world Coming Out is a risk. Coming
out risks being violently attacked. Coming out risks being fired. Coming
out risks being persecuted and attacked and ostracised by colleagues.
Coming out risks being abandoned by friends, being disowned by family
and being attacked by your religious leaders. Coming out is brave. Coming
out is still an act of courage worthy of acknowledgement.

In the real world, Coming Out is still often
very much a part of a long passage of self-realisation, self-questioning
and analysis of how you will lead your life and how you want to live
and what you will tolerate and accept. For many it is a moment of massive
realisation and growth worthy of celebration and comment.

So… all this “who cares?” 
response when you see us making a “thing” out of someone coming
out? People care and they care for good reason.

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