Come Out Come Out Wherever You Are
I have a good friend who hasn't come out of the closet yet. For his privacy's sake, we'll call him Justin. Justin and I sat in our high school cafeteria talking about being gay in high school. I'm a senior now and I've been out since the end of sophomore year. Justin has always known he's gay, but he passes easily as straight and is just starting to edge toward coming out of the closet now that it's the end of his Junior year.
"I just don't want to be treated any differently by people," Justin said, munching on his turkey sandwich. "I don't want people to look at me and only see a gay kid. And I really don't want to be on the receiving end of any discrimination." It's times like these and boys like Justin who can sometimes drive me crazy. "Besides, it's not their business if I'm gay."
It's right at this moment that I think it is in fact other people's business if you're gay. Exhibit A is the new "study" that came out of Columbia University last week. A psychiatrist named Robert Spitzer published a study he presented at an American Psychological Association meeting, stating that gay men and women actually can change their sexual orientation. Spitzer interviewed 200 "former" gays and lesbians who told him through therapy and often through church support groups, they had switched to "normal" heterosexual lives. Of course the eternally bigoted Reverend Jerry Falwell immediately endorsed the study along with several hate-spewing organizations like the Family Research Council and godhatesfags.com. Aside from these wackos, the general public is starting to wonder if this "study" is true. Educated Americans and organizations such as HRC, ACLU, and the APA itself are setting the record straight (if you'll forgive the pun): Spitzer is an out-spoken! anti-gay rights activist with data that is extremely questionable due to his linking with conservative, right-wing organizations. His methodology and motivations are anything but unbiased and scientific. As one critic pointed out, any person of any sexual orientation can stop having sex with a certain gender or stop having sex completely, but that never takes away true feelings a person has in their heart. (More information on this story can be found at http://www.planetout.com or http://www.advocate.com.)
This is where boys like Justin and other gays come into play. People in our community and in our schools need to know that we're here. Justin is a perfect example of a good human being, and if people knew that he was gay, it'd be a perfect way for people to understand that gay people are here, too, and that they're perfectly normal and nothing to be afraid of. It's so much harder to discriminate against a group of people if you're friends or neighbors or family with somebody belonging to that minority group. And, not to mention, wouldn't it be nice for Justin to be able to start talking about his real life, who he's dating, what he's doing on the weekends, and stop hiding?
Being out of the closet is the best thing I've done. It was scary, and it took plenty of strength and courage to do. And, once I did it, I didn't regret it for a second. I wrote a paper about coming out of the closet that won national awards and subsequently has been published all over the nation and my home state. I've starred in all of our school plays and joined and lead school organizations. And, this June when I graduate, I'll be the emcee for our graduation ceremony of 685 students and their accompanying 2,200 guests. I haven't lost a single friend because of being gay, I've never had a teacher react negatively to me, and I've never been the victim of any sort of anti-gay bigotry. Does that sound like discrimination? Does it sound like I've been held back by being gay? I don't think so. In fact, I'd say life has become far richer and happier after coming out.
So, if you do anything for yourself this spring and graduation season, I'd support you in coming out. Nudge yourself out into truth, honesty, and pride in who you are. You deserve it.
Starting in the April 2001 edition of Oasis Magazine I began a fiction story in Oasis's "Arts & Entertainment" section that has become far more popular than I would have ever imagined. I started writing a story about two boys falling in love and as soon as the first part of the story came out my e-mail box was filled with notes from teenagers thanking me for writing the story. I've always looked for books about gay teenagers falling in love, and since there's a massive lack of those kinds of books, I decided to write one. After the second edition of the story came out on Oasis one reader wrote me an e-mail and dubbed me the "gay Danielle Steel." And, cheesy as Danielle may be, there's a place and a time for all things, and the world was ready for a book about two boys falling in love.
This month the third edition of "My Gay Life" is available to all on Oasis's web site. I hope you enjoy it.
Josh, 18, lives in Minneapolis. He'll be attending the University of Minnesota next year and is looking forward to a career as a writer and a lawyer. You can find him on AOL's instant messenger as JoshOasis or you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org