Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Spark of Wisdom: Coming Out Day In The U.K.

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 Sparky.
 

Today is Coming Out day (in the UK anyway, for some reason it's a day different here than from many places).

Now, in general I don't have much truck with special days or months. If an issue is important it's always important not just for some days or weeks of the year. (Actually I can have a long long long debate about the use of such days/months for greater awareness for the invisible vs token gestures, but that's a different point). But they do give me inspiration now and then :)

So, on this day I'm going to ramble on about "Comfort" and Being Out.

See, the "comfort" of straight people has been raised a few times around me lately. See, I'm told that some straight people are UNCOMFORTABLE around gay people. And, bless their little cotton socks, they can't help it! It's because of the way they were raised/their generation/their religion/their star-sign/random commands from the mother ship. 

It's been used to justify complete erasure of any kind of GBLTQ characters in the media, in stories, even writer communities

I've seen it used to justify the idea of "straight only" spaces.

I've had it used repeatedly to justify why certain relatives treat me like shit stuck to their shoes.

And, above all, I've seen it used time and again to tell me and others to be "less gay." Or to outright closet ourselves so as not to upset their delicate sensibilities. Because, aren't we being unfair when they're "uncomfortable" and they can't help that?  For me, on many occasions, coming out was incredible, freeing and a major step forwards - but staying out was another battle altogether. An astonishing amount of people were at least borderline polite when I first came out - but grew increasingly more hostile when my gayness didn't go away - when I didn't crawl back in the closet. They were irritated if I mentioned my husband, annoyed if they had to spend time with the pair of us, angered when I brought him to social events and vexed when they had to edit their casually homophobic language. 

Some didn't even need that much. They were just edgy and irritable when I was near them. Some were blatantly obvious about it - like the straight men who took pains to ensure I never stood behind them, lest the sight of their trouser clad buttocks would cause me to lose all control and have me ravishing them up against the nearest wall. Some were a little more subtle - edging away, constantly and warily watching me like I was some dangerous animal that may charge. And some were just uncomfortable uneasy, on edge. Unable to relax or be comfortable - because there was an openly gay person in the room.

Should I make allowances for these people who are so uncomfortable? Should I step back, give them space, allow them to exclude me without comment, put some space between myself and Beloved, maybe leave him at home next time? After all it's not people's fault that they're legitimately uncomfortable right? 

The key word here is "legitimately" methinks. Because they aren't legitimately uncomfortable - they're uncomfortable. Oh their discomfort may be GENUINE. But it's not legitimate. It stems from prejudice, it's unjustified, it's privileged - and let's not be fancy with words here - it's wrong.

And my coming out isn't a one time thing. When I'm out, I will stay out (well, as I've said before, barring finding myself at the Wetboro Baptist Church Gun and Flame thrower convention - because, y'know I do have some survival instinct). I'm not going to crawl back into the closet because a precious straight person hasn't worked through their prejudice enough to deal with my existence.

Now, don't get me wrong. I do get that it takes time to work through ingrained prejudice. I know we're all stained by societal prejudice and it does taker time and effort to dig that out... and I do appreciate those who are making that effort.

But, y'know? This isn't my problem - oh you can make it my problem with the homophobia. And your homophobia is certainly my problem. But your discomfort? Your squidgy, squirmy unhappiness around me while I am nearby? Not my problem. Your comfort is not my problem. I'm not censoring or restricting my existence because teh gay  gives you the uckies.

I've been there. I still am there. Religious symbols freak me something fierce - but I don't turn tail when I see a priest and I don't demand people hide their crosses, crescents et al and I'll wager I have more reasons for my discomfort around religious symbols than straight people have for being uncomfortable around me. 

I have a completely irrational and wrong discomfort around people with severe scarring and especially amputations. I can't even look at my own scars without being discomforted. And y'know what? This is my ableism, it's prejudice, it's unacceptable and it's wrong. It's my duty to root it out of myself and deal with this wrongness. It's not the job of the scarred or amputees to take pains to comfort my delicate fee-fees. It's not their job to tip-toe around my prejudiced discomfort. It's my job to suck it up and deal and work through that without making them uncomfortable - because I am WRONG.

I am Out. As completely Out in all situations and areas of my life I possibly can be. To me, that means not hiding, not censoring myself, not repressing myself.  
 
And if that makes you uncomfortable? That's your problem. I'll appreciate it if you are working through it, but it's your job to do so. And I will not thank you for doing so - because being a decent human being is not something we should be thanked for (remind me to ramble about that later). And, above all, your discomfort is not my problem - and if you make it my problem, you not only have prejudice to work through - but you're a homophobe.