On Coming Out, On Being LGBTQ

A young fan asked to interview me about LGBTQ issues. Following is that Q&A. Thanks to Caitlyn for the questions!

1. How do you feel about people who use “gay” as a derogatory term? What would you tell them?

I’ve been hearing people use “gay” as a derogatory term so long, and I’ve been fighting that usage so long, that I’m amazed when I meet people who still don’t understand why that’s not okay. I mean, who wants their label to be used to mean “bad”? It doesn’t make sense. I would tell those who still do that to substitute any other label and see whether they still think it’s fine. “That’s so Irish”? “That’s so black”? “That’s so cheerleader”? No group likes to be denigrated.

2. Have you been personally discriminated for your sexual orientation or gender identity? What does discrimination mean to you?

I have been personally discriminated against for my sexual orientation ever since I was very young. So many examples come to mind, and what they have in common is that I have been treated differently–worse–because of my sexual orientation. For instance, I remember moving to Billings, Montana, and our neighbor coming out and saying a friendly hello when we arrived. I could see him figuring out that we were a gay couple as we talked, and that was the last time we ever spoke. He actively ignored us after that, and he even made his children come inside the house whenever we were out in the backyard.
3. What would you say to people who are closeted and fear coming out?  To people who are open and want to “recloset” themselves as Rafe did in Openly Straight?

To those who are closeted and fear coming out, I’d say I understand. Coming out is scary, because you can be rejected for being open about who you are, and that hurts. A lot. To those considering coming out, I would say to make sure to put safety first. If someone is living at home with parents who might throw them out for being gay, I’d suggest knowing what they’ll do if their parents do that. Your safety is always the number one concern, and while most people aren’t treated that way, some people, sadly, are. Finally, I’d say to find a base of support, whether that is friends or a counselor or teacher at school or at church, or wherever. Support is crucial for all of us when we come out.
To those who are open and want to re-closet themselves like Rafe, I’d say that I get it, but that in the end it’s likely to make things worse rather than better. There’s just about no chance that not being open and authentic is really going to serve a person moving forward in their life.
4. Why did you come out? Why should others?
I came out because when I wasn’t out, it felt like I was being dishonest by withholding part of my identity. It was hard to come out, but life certainly got better when I felt like I didn’t have to hide anymore. And that’s exactly why others should come out. So that they can feel free.
5. Do you know any other people apart of the lgbtq+ community besides yourself and your husband? If so how would you describe them?
I know many, many people in the LGBTQ community, and I can’t describe them as a whole, because they are all as varied as individuals as people who are not in that community. We humans are all the same in so many ways, and we are all totally different, too, and defy categorization. I’d like to say LGBTQ people are more sensitive in general, or something like that, but I don’t actually think that’s true. We run the gamut, just like all groups of people!
6. What would you say to homophobic people?
To homophobic people, I would say, “Get to know an LGBTQ person.” It’s really hard to hate up close. Much easier to hate a group of people when you don’t know anyone from that group. LGBTQ people can end homophobia, transphobia, biphobia, etc., by being open about who they are. Because when a homophobe, for example, makes a heart connection with someone who is gay, they learn the truth, which is that hating someone for being gay is illogical, cruel, and shortsighted. It’s not that different than hating yourself. And in many cases, it’s exactly the same thing.