I just re-watched an E! True Hollywood Story that I had taped. It was about the amazing Ellen Degeneres. It got me to thinking about how important it was when she came out as a lesbian on her television show in the 90’s. I was very emotional as I watched that episode. I remember that they had given subtle hints throughout earlier episodes that her character was gay. It was quite fun to watch.
I started to think tonight how lucky I am to have lived this time in history. I thought back to when I was younger. I never thought then, that I would be out myself and to the world! It is so important for all of us to be ourselves. Many people never experience the situation where they must live a lie day to day. It tears you apart. You know that you are a good person, yet people are so ready to condemn you if they find out one thing about you. That is why it is so hard for me to understand how some Christians don’t realize the pain and suffering they cause us. It is not the sin that causes us the pain, but the people who label it as such. Some kids have actually killed themselves because of it. My tolerance for those that do not accept us is less and less as each year of life goes on. I know that for years I carried my own internalized homophobia around. I knew I was gay, was out to people, but always went out of my way to make straight people feel comfortable! Do straight people live that way? I think not.
I even maintained an unhealthy friendship due to my own sublimated homophobia. Her name was Debbie and she and her husband were born again Christians. Even though I told her I was gay the first week we met, somehow we became friends. I disagreed with her that homosexuality was a sin, but somehow I bought into the idea I could be friends with her while she disapproved of a major part of my personality. After years of study, and personal growth on my part, I realize how detrimental her attitude was to my well being. It all came to a head when Mike and I were able to get legally married here in Massachusetts. Debbie could not, and would not, be happy for us. I realized that my friend was against me. She would not support protection for my well being. She would lobby against me to have the same rights that she and her husband so richly enjoy and take for granted. We talked hard about it. She did not believe that my relationship was the same as she had with her husband. It was acceptable to her that I would not get the same tax benefits that she would receive. I thought about the future. I thought of when Mike and I are older, and if one of us was to die, how we would not be entitled to each other’s social security. My friend believed that would be acceptable. What if I were sick and really needed the money? It was acceptable. Acceptable? I considered her a friend. I needed my head examined. This is the love that her religion has to offer me? This is the kind of friendship she believed Christ has to offer? Please! I hope I go to hell. It was at this time that my true friends came by my side. My friend Danny was exceptionally supportive, and was outraged! For me to be friends with this woman was a personal affront to him. I realized that keeping Debbie as one of my friends was an insult to the people who truly love and care for me, and my relationship with Mike. True friends nurture and encourage their friends. They also value great relationships when they see them. I had always done that for her and supported the relationship she had with her husband. Why was I not entitled to the same?
Because of Debbie, I now know how important it is for all gay people to stand up and be counted. We must never submit to people who do not accept us as whole, healthy and complete. To do so is just slow suicide to one’s self esteem and ultimate happiness.
I was in the closet, when I thought I was out.
Thank you Debbie.
Thank you Ellen Degeneres.