How Out is Out?

My best friend is Gay. If there was a three-dollar bill, he’d be on it, he’s that queer.

Okay, well, maybe he’s a little less queer than that. He can fix a bike, rewire a phone, install a sink, and other useful things like that. Then again, he’s on an eBay buying tear and recently nearly fainted with glee when he “won” a signed photo of Julie Andrews seated on a grassy meadow with the Von Trapp girls all gathered around her.

The man’s a proud gay man and has been politically active and really lives with his lifestyle on his sleeve, and that I greatly admire. He’s never come out to his parents, though, and this bothers me. His parents would have to be blind, dumb, and mute to not have ever clued in to the fact that he’s gay, but it’s never been discussed.

I just don’t understand. He knows I feel this way. I’m concerned, because I love my friend and I know how much his parents mean to him, but I also know what it’s like to lose a parent suddenly. Of all the things I’m saddened by regarding the death of my mother, the least of them are regrets. There’s nothing I never told her, there’s no thing I wish I’d been more honest about. When she died, she knew me for who I was, in every way, from my use of drugs to my lack of motivation. She loved me anyhow and told me she was greatly proud of me the day before she died. I hold onto that. I was loved, I was appreciated.

I realize a lot of parents freak out when their kid comes out. I know it’s a huge, huge ordeal and can be a very traumatic event in the life of any gay person, but I think that the disappointment and regret of never having come out is more of a burden to carry through life than the idea of living an honest and open life is.

Gay rights have always been something that has been a bit of a passion for me. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I have never gone down on a woman. I think it’s highly unlikely I ever will. Nothing about it titillates me. Seldom has a woman ever, ever aroused me. It’s just not my thing.

It doesn’t mean I can’t understand the hardships faced by a person who’s stuck being attracted to “the wrong sex.”

When I was in elementary school, there was a boy I’ll call Nicky. He was pretty flaming, from the get-go. He was the one that introduced us all to Dead or Alive’s “Spin Me Around.” He dressed up as Boy George for Halloween – in grade 7. In high school, he was obviously somewhat feminine, but he had an incredible personality and just radiated good times. The high school, though, was Catholic. And it was all about football. The jocks ran the school, and everyone was under their rein of tyranny. Gay wasn’t trendy then, and Nicky was obviously the only kid in school who fit that bill.

This was in about 1988.

Nicky was remarkably intelligent and great at expressing himself. He had this ever so light British twang, having been born in the UK but moved here when he was one. His voice was distinct. Out of everyone from high school, he’s the person I most wish I could get in touch with. He used to call me Ditch Girl after having thrown me in a ditch in Grade 3. We made up, but the nickname lasted for a decade.

He wore his politics on his sleeve, despite the mockery and humiliation he faced daily through the school kids. He got more political with age, and ultimately was selected as a guest on a popular sex/romance-related radio show that soon went national. He was 16, and was speaking on behalf of gay teens in British Columbia.

The appearance didn’t stay secret, despite his last name not being used. Monday morning, the news made its way around school. The football jocks took issue with having a Famous Faggot in their midst. Nicky was pinned against lockers and a beating was about to ensue.

“Go ahead. Beat the shit out of me. Want AIDS? I’m a fag, right? You’ve come to the right place, you fucking bigot! You can punch me and hurt me, but I’ll kill you with AIDS,” he exclaimed.

Nothing like using someone’s ignorance as a weapon, I thought then and still think now. Nicky was left alone. The less-ignorant kids in school admired the shit out of him, and though his remaining school days weren’t all sunshine and roses, they were made more tolerable by the considerable balls he exhibited that day in the hall.

His family knew, his friends knew, and those of us who understood the struggles he endured to become that person – that out and honest individual that filled us with admiration – probably became better people as a result of just having him in our lives.

A couple years back, a gay man was beaten to death here in Vancouver. It shook my friend to his core. I know he’s experienced times when he’d be taking out the trash to the back alley behind the gay bar he once worked in, when fuckheads would wheel up in their redneck cars and hurl pennies at him and call him a fucking faggot. He hasn’t let it silence him; he still lives as a proud gay man – he just hasn’t discussed it with his folks.

We’re kidding ourselves if we think everything’s fine and good just ‘cos some notable queers have made it onto the television in recent years. It’s a laugh if you think it’s all well and good for a gay person to be obviously gay in the workplace. Not too long ago, one of my original readers had a posting on his blog in which he started a controversy because he was all proud his coworkers and employer said he was a nice quiet fag who wasn’t too obviously gay. He thought this meant he was professional. I thought it meant he was conforming to fit into the nice little hetero peg that most of society still thinks we all need to fit into.

The Guy tells me occasionally about this coworker he really likes, this flamboyant and fun gay guy at his office. It doesn’t bother the Guy at all that he’s gay. Why should it? Being gay isn’t something anyone anywhere should have to hide – in work, in families – ever.

Until people begin telling their parents, telling their coworkers, and really start having the courage to live out loud, homophobia’s going to persist in our society. And that’s wrong.

Until we finally start seeing evidence that, yes, it truly is one in 10 that is gay in this society of ours, we will continue seeing senseless deaths like this young British man who was murdered by a couple fucking bigoted bastards who deserve the life sentences they’ve just received.

When friends and family members come out, you owe it to them to get over yourself and understand the struggle they’re facing, and provide them the support they damned well deserve. More than a third of teenage suicide attempts come as a result of them feeling so alone because of their sexual identity crises. Isn’t it time we change the statistics?