Saturday, January 6, 2007

On Coming Out and Growing Up

2006 was a busy year for coming out, that's for sure. First it was Lance Bass (of N'Sync), then T.R. Knight (of "Grey's Anatomy"), then Neil Patrick Harris (from "How I Met Your Mother" and "Doogie Howser, M.D."). Oh, and let's not forget the coming out of Lt. Sulu! George Takei outed himself in 2006 also! I'm so gratified that we've reached the point where these people, in the public eye, can admit their orientation and still keep their jobs. We've fought long and hard to get here and it really warms my heart to see this happening.

I was lucky enough to meet Mr. Takei at a Star Trek Convention back in the 80's. He struck me then as a terribly funny man, with a great sense of humor and a HUGE, booming laugh. His normal speaking voice is deep and a bit gravelly, and he is quick to laugh at a joke. He seemed to genuinely enjoy the company of Trekkies (or Trekkers, if you prefer). To find out all these years later that he's a member of the family was a welcome shock. I never would have guessed.

T.R. Knight is much loved in our household, and was BEFORE he came out. My partner was salivating over his character George on "Grey's Anatomy" every week anyway, and now he has even more reason to! I applaud Mr. Knight for the calmness and quietness of his announcement, at the same time I am apalled at the comment by Isaiah Washington that forced him out of the closet. You'd think a black man would be more sensitive to prejudice than that.

And Doogie! I've always liked Mr. Harris, and remember his old TV series fondly. My favorite episode was the one when he told his parents he was taking his savings and moving into an apartment with his friend Vinnie. When his parents hedged, saying it wasn't a good idea, his character's reply was a perfect example of the "line in the sand" that we all have to draw with our parents at some point. Doogie simply said, "I don't think you understand. I'm not asking you. I'm telling you that this is what I am going to do." End of discussion.

I had a similar conversation with my Mom when I came out as a teenager. She tried to constantly engage me in a (sarcastic) conversation about my chosen lifestyle. I dodged questions, got frustrated and annoyed and generally put up with her taunts until one day I'd had enough. I finally said to her, "My sex life is none of your business and is not open for discussion," and refused to respond to any question or topic that involved my personal life. I literally "didn't hear" anything she said on that subject. She finally realized I was serious and gave up.

It was a defining moment in our relationship, and when she finally "got" that I was adult enough to say that and stick to it, she seemed to respect me more. We all have a moment like that with our parents, when we have to tell them, "I don't think you understand. I'm not asking you. I'm telling you that this is what I am going to do."

For those who haven't come out yet, take heart. Not all stories end as well as mine, but more of them do than you might think.

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