Yesterday, I came out again. It wasn’t quite like when I begrudgingly came out to my parents in 10th grade, and it wasn’t like coming out on “America’s Next Top Model,” on the television screens of people whom I never had to see. Before I said the words “I’m gay” onstage to several thousand people standing below, my mind flipped back to the moment that Ellen DeGeneres said the same words into the microphone at the airport on “Ellen.” (I know, could I be more gay? Probably not.)
There was something different about yesterday’s “coming out” moment, beyond the fact that I was staring at my parents, who were surrounded by thousands of gay people (a first for them, undoubtedly). This time, I was coming out for a tangible, structured, pro-social, and active reason.
Yesterday, 4,000 people gathered in front of City Hall to protest the passing of Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California. Having been asked to speak, I gathered some enthusiastic and supportive friends, including our own John Norris, for brunch in Tribeca to brainstorm some ideas and to discuss the current obstacles we faced beyond Prop 8, such as the Defense of Marriage Act, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and … yeah, Katy Perry.
By the time I was called to step onstage and approach the podium, I was calm and collected, exhilarated from the energy of the masses before me. For the next six minutes, I described my frustrations with the ignorant enclaves of society, the way a sexual orientation has been adopted and exploited for Perry’s “feel-good hit of the summer” and how my lifestyle is safe and even entertaining to people — as long as I stay inside their TV screens. More strongly, though, I expressed my hope and faith in the furthering of the gay-rights movement. If people 65 years of age and over had not voted, Prop 8 would not have passed. And contrary to the story that has penetrated the media for weeks now — that Latino and black voters were responsible for Prop 8’s passage — I told the audience that a strong majority of African-Americans under age 30 voted against the proposition. I also asked everyone whom they had invited to the rally, and who would be standing with them now, had they been invited. I had spent the last two days trying to decide if I should invite my parents, and if they would even come. I made the decision to invite them yesterday, and so they showed up to their very first gay-rights rally, excited and proud.
As a member of a community that has undergone a significant setback on an Election Day that emanated “hope” and “change,” I have learned that we cannot assume who will be with us or against us, and that we should not ignore those who have voted against us in the past. Barack Obama is the president-elect because his campaign talked to everybody and assumed nothing. The LGBT community needs to take those same steps. Perhaps, with that in mind, our constitution can be a rule of law that protects our rights rather than takes them away.
I came home last night to find my friend Kyle on the phone, coming out to his brother — something he had been meaning to do since he realized he was gay. His brother asked him if he’d seen any of the Giants games recently, so Kyle seized the moment and exclaimed, “No, but maybe that’s because I’m gay.” (That’s perhaps one of the best ways I’ve ever heard of someone coming out.) Hanging up the phone, Kyle told me that it was the line in my speech that asked, “Who have you not yet come out to that you could?” that inspired him to tell his brother last night.
Prop 8 has been passed, and that battle has been lost, but the solidarity, confidence, bravery and inspiration that has now infused itself into people like Kyle could lead to the victory of the greater war.