Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are

I went to Oakland’s celebration of National Coming Out day last Sunday. Lying on my back in the middle of the lush grass of Frank Ogawa Plaza, I stared up at the impossibly blue sky and basked in the sunlight.

I usually don’t attend these functions, since I came out in 1990. Back then, it was a huge deal. You came out once and dangit, you stayed out and stayed gay!

Now…not so much. People come out, go back in, come out for visits…it’s changed. However, I tend to forget that there are young people coming out every day, and older people living a constant coming out process.

One of the speakers was an FTM who said that while the ability to pass as a straight guy was alluring, he kept coming out anyway. What bravery, and sheer stubbornness.

A very young man discussed his experiences at Boys State, where his very presence as an out gay man changed some of his homophobic peers for the better. (I tried VERY hard to overlook my realization that at least 35% of his content consisted of the word “like”.)

The first openly gay (and black) elected official in Oakland spoke about the importance of being out and involved. Oddly enough, he looked like a Baptist preacher, which he was not.

Also present was the openly gay (and black) representative (and her girlfriend) from the district just southwest of mine.

The reality of Oakland vs. the myth is very odd. This is actually a thriving community of people in all walks of life, not just some urine-soaked crack-smoking thug ghetto playground.

It’s okay to be political here, and if that is your métier, you are encouraged to try your hand at getting elected. Sometimes, it even works.

Simply by refusing to hear his “no” the citizens of Oakland have chosen to draft a man we all respect to run for mayor next year. According to the Chronicle, Ron Dellums didn’t really want to run, but feeling the hope of the audience that had gathered to hear his decision, he put his name into the ring. The crowd went nuts.

It’s all about feeling the love. When that kid came on stage to talk about Boys’ State, I could feel how nervous he was from 100 feet away. He started to talk and nobody stopped him, booed him, nothing; we listened. His voice got stronger and his story more focused as he realized he was being heard.

I sat on that grass and listened to the voices of gay people talking about success and pride. I looked up at City Hall, on which steps the stage was set, and loved my adopted city just a little more.

There IS a here, here, and what a lovely here it is. Hope you had a Happy National Coming Out Day, too.


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