“I can’t think of anything worse than being brought up by two gay dads.Some people might not agree with that. Fine! That’s just my opinion." -Rupert Everett
For some of you reading this post, Rupert Everett's opinion about same-sex parenting may be old news by now. After all, the internet has been castigating Rupert for more than a week and that's forever in internet time. Yet as a gay father myself, Rupert's words have continued to ring in my mind...not so much for his evaluation of gay parents, but of Rupert himself. For a man out personally and professionally for a good number of years and in a relationship, you would expect Rupert's experience with gay people to be a little broader. And yet from the tone of his comment, it seems clear that he has never even met a gay parent in real life. If we are the worst that he can think of...then he really needs to get out more.
However, I couldn't give a rats behind about Rupert Everett's opinion about me or my family. Like many people, his opinions(or his mothers) are more fueled by ignorance about gay families than by any fact or experience with them. What troubles me more is that Rupert can maintain this point of view in spite of the fact that he, himself, is gay. And yet....Rupert Everett is not the first person I have heard make some head scratching comment about gay people while being gay themselves. Sadly I have heard things come from gay men that sound like they came straight from the press desk at The National Organization for Marriage. It always makes me wonder how in the hell they can think that way about other gay people as if they are not included in their blanket judgments. And so...Rupert's comments have become the catalyst for me to think a lot about acceptance this week and how we come think of ourselves as gay people before and after coming out. Where does self acceptance come from? Is it from living our lives, out to our family and friends?...or is it learning to define "gay" for ourselves? Lets talk about it...
Society and our culture tell us lots of things about what it means to be gay. Some of it is positive and some is negative. Those messages are as loud and blatant as the condemnations issued by churches and anti-gay activist orgs...and sometimes it's the subtle message behind a gay characters portrayed on T.V. If we aren't hearing about the opinions of gay fatherhood from Rupert Everett...we are hearing about the opinions of gay men on Grindr from Paris Hilton. Everyone it seems, has something to say about what they think gay is. It is this background radiation that, in part, goes into forming our own ideas about gay life as...at least, that is....before we actually start living it and defining it for ourselves.
I have told my own coming out story so many times on this blog. I don't want to restate it all again...suffice it to say that even though I grew up in a part of the world that is considered as liberal as it gets, that did not spare me from internalizing a hefty amount of negative images, stereotypes, and ideas of what my life would be like as a gay man. Before I came out, the nicest thing I had ever heard anyone in my life say about gay people was to refer to them with a sad tone and a mournful nod of the head as lost and misguided souls, in a tone of voice that left no doubt that, even though those people may have been right in front of them walking and talking...they were already regarded as dead. At worst, were the messages from people my age (and yes...my family) that called gay people some of the worst words I know in the English language and made it clear that any violence that ever befell them was their own fault. You know the words, they are older than time..."that f*ggot better not look at me or I'm gonna kick his ass."
Somewhere in the middle of that spectrum were the churches that said the feelings I struggled so hard to bury were a sign of my evil nature. Or the T.V. and movies of my childhood that either made the gay person a crazy person, a murderer, a victim, sad and alone, or the butt of the joke. And politicians...much as they still do today, more often referred to gay people as a fringe element of society that deserved no rights or protections. In fact. they more often believed that society needed protecting from us.
Thankfully, some of this has changed in the twenty plus years that I have been out. I hear coming out stories from people today that blow me away for the clarity they had about themselves early on and for the utter lack of B.S. that they had to undo in order to accept themselves....precisely because I had a lot of baggage to unpack in my way out of the closet. Was I going to be able to find someone to love who wasn't just going to use me? Would I grow old alone? Would I end up lonely, bitter, and alcoholic like everyone seemed to think was the ultimate fate of a gay people, because they also told me that two men couldn't love each other and have it be a real love. I know it's bullsh*t and you know it's bullsh*t.....but the me of twenty years ago didn't. There was just no other view of gay life for me to draw on.
Ultimately, it was the psychic pressure of trying to keep my feelings buried for so long that forced me to go out and prove this stuff wrong. I told myself that I could not fight this any longer. Years of burying it and denying hasn't made it go away even a tiny bit...so perhaps it's time to get out there and see what being gay really is. And off I went...a gay heat seeking missile, locked on the target of experiencing for myself what it meant to be gay. Not what my parents told me...or my church...or even my friends. I needed to know it for myself what was so wrong about it. And so it was that I read about coming out, went to a couple gay bars and looked myself in the mirror and said to myself that I am gay. And with that acknowledgment came the realization that I was now set apart from my family and everything that represented love and safety....as much as I could acknowledge the fact that being gay was an essential and unchanging part of me, knowing that I was different than my family and all of my friends was terrifying. I didn't want to lose them. That sense of "i'm different" was scary partially because I didn't know where that difference was leading me and who I would become.
I have heard gay acquaintances state in my presence that, "they don't like hanging out with other gay people." The unspoken implication being we are all sex obsessed weirdo's or catty and image obsessed shrews. Neither being acceptable enough to them to be associated with. To which I can't help but thing, "wow...which category do they think that puts me in then." Or the speaker for that matter.
It is sad to me that we do this to ourselves. It's bad enough that the rest of the world see's a gay person and thinks that they are less than or that the love that we feel for someone of the same sex isn't as real and genuine as theirs. As a person who has come out...at least to yourself....there should be the realization that you are the subject of discrimination by society. You know what it feels like to feel fear, to feel like an outsider. Knowing how that feels, how do you turn that around again on anyone else? I just don't get that.
There is this assumption, that coming out of the closet is a magic pill that changes you from fear and self judgement into one of self acceptance....."Out and proud." That might be true for a portion of us, but for a others of us it takes a while to undo what we were taught about who we are and who we "should" be....and for still others it seems that the widening of our worldview that can come with being out doesn't make a dent in our internalized homophobia. Sometimes we can't quite let go of the homophobia that we have taken into ourselves because then we would have to accept that we are just like the people we have tried to define ourselves as different from. I see those traits in men like Rupert Everett and in Elton John when they have made statements that are so offensive and so patently absurd at the same time. And just as Elton John one day changed his tune about civil marriage when it affected his ability to adopt a child...so to may Rupert Everett suddenly have a change of heart....when it effects him. And, just like Elton, he will suddenly get that it is about discrimination and then have to tap dance his way around his earlier views. Perhaps then he will have to realize that he has become a part of that message that society sends to all gay people that they are not good enough. That is a painful pill to swallow.
There are days when I can look at my husband and family and realize being gay has been a blessing in my life and well worth the internal struggle it took to get here. Sometimes I can see a beautiful man and think to myself how thankful I am to be able to appreciate that beauty(hey, I'm not dead). For so many people it passes, unnoticed. I can look at my life and see how much richness being gay has brought into it that I would never have known had I determined that day(20+ years ago) to just keep fighting it. But it was my experience that created that change. Without getting up the courage to see what the hell was wrong with being gay for myself I would still be fighting it today...and maybe ruining some poor woman's life to boot.
So while coming out does not automatically mean that you will be OK with who you are, we all hope that we learn and grow from the experiences that life throws at us. Rupert Everett has just been lucky enough to get a wake up call. Perhaps he can use this as an opportunity to learn for himself what the truth is about being raised by two dads and maybe in so doing find a little piece and confidence in himself that seems sorely lacking. The world throws enough hate at us as it is.....we don't need to direct any more at ourselves. You may not be able to be screamin out and proud...but maybe you can be out with an open mind and an open heart for what may be because it just may surprise you....... that is just my opinion.
Until next time dear readers....