Gotta say, gay love is here to stay

Bigots suck.As lacking in eloquence as that sentence is, it’s not really a point of contention. Therefore, today’s theme being National Coming Out Week, I refuse to discuss John and Anne Paulk, the ex-gay ministry or the Christian Coalition. They simply don’t represent mainstream America, and not many people even pay any attention to them except to point out that they’re pretty weird. As for the Paulks, take a moment to pity the child — it’s going to have a tough life.
We always talk about anti-gays or avid gay rights supporters, but it is increasingly rare that mainstream America is called on what they’re doing wrong. Too much time is spent giving credence to the Bible bangers, and not enough time on everyone else. This is where National Coming Out Week is important. Unlike Pride, which is the bigger festival of the year, National Coming Out Week is bound to no location. Minneapolis Pride is in Loring Park, a relatively safe and accepting place to hang out and spend a weekend afternoon … coming out is nearly never safe.
On campus, people have had problems in recent years with the queer kiss-ins, and some with the “coming out door” outside Coffman Union. They feel perfectly fine with people being gay, but “why do they have to flaunt it?” It’s a question so common, it’s covered in PFLAG’s (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) manual. It’s a question that reveals so much more about us than we want known.
Its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is filtering into society. People have found it’s a lot easier not to talk about gays than it is to show their discomfort. This has disastrous results. It means we can pass for straight, and if we don’t want to pass, then we’re hostile — overly political — in your face.
The most obvious place to see the consequences of this way of looking at the issue occur is in people’s own coming-out stories. There’s a woman whose mother came to high school and assaulted her the day after she told her mother she was a lesbian. After assaulting her daughter, the mother tried to perform an exorcism when she came home.
Most people don’t have as extreme a story as that. However, more often than not, relations with parents are strained after one comes out.
It’s been said that you don’t have to approve of someone being gay; you just have to accept it. This means that people don’t have to give up that little bigoted voice in their heads that says being gay is wrong. This doesn’t make sense, because you can’t accept something you feel is morally twisted. We need to attack the fact that it’s perceived as morally twisted in the first place. If a person was black, they wouldn’t say “you don’t have to approve of my being black; you just have to accept it.” A woman wouldn’t say “you don’t have to approve of my being a woman; you just have to accept it.”
Any minority party would be disgusted at the racism or sexism taking place, and say something to the extent of, “I’m here and I’m not going away, so learn to like it.”
On Tuesday, we’ll have the big lavender “coming out door” in front of Coffman. Goldy Gopher will be waiting to hug those that cross the threshold. People on the lawn will be cheering. It will be obnoxious, and it will be fun. The first time I walked through the door, I thought it was kind of silly, making a big show of coming out of the closet. But the metaphor had more of an emotional effect than I’d expected.
There are so many times we keep our tongues in check. So many times that we let little comments slip by us on purpose. So many times we hesitate about even holding hands in public. … What if we’re in the wrong place?
Coming out is not flaunting it. It’s only asking for the same rights everyone else has. It never ceases to amaze me that so much trouble and pain can come out of something as pure as love. People want to distance themselves from gays, but the love between two women or two men is the same as the love between a woman and a man. Everyone has hopes for the future, plans with their partners and that tangible love that fills a room when it’s good.
Bible bangers aside, everyone has the potential to work with their own homophobia. But they have to admit that it’s there in order to do so. They have to ask questions of the gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people in their lives, as potentially offensive or stupid as the question may sound. Once holding hands in public ceases to be a political statement, then we’ll have come a long way.
One of my students found out that I was a lesbian. He’s 14 and very involved with his church. He asked me if I was going to hell. I responded that I didn’t want to infringe on his religion because he had a right to believe in it. I also told him that as we grow older, we need to make decisions for ourselves, that what we see is right, and that sometimes this means not thinking exactly as we’re told to.
As adults, we need to think for ourselves. We need to shout when something isn’t right. And we need to fix it.

Sara Hurley’s column appears every Monday. She welcomes comments at [email protected]