Monday, February 13, 2012

Coming Out Matters

And it has always mattered. Read this from an op ed piece today by Michael Klarman, a Harvard Law Professor in the LA Times. He argues that marriage rights for LGBTs are now inevitable.

Why is gay marriage inevitable? First, the basic insight of the gay rights movement over the last four decades has proved powerfully correct: As more gays and lesbians have come out of the closet, the social environment has become more gay friendly. In turn, as the social environment has become more hospitable, more gays and lesbians have felt free to come out of the closet. This social dynamic is powerfully reinforcing and unlikely to be reversed.

One factor that most strongly predicts support for gay equality is knowing someone who is gay. As more gays and lesbians come out of the closet, more parents, children, siblings, friends, neighbors and co-workers know or love someone who is gay. Because few people favor discrimination against those they know and love, every gay person coming out of the closet creates more supporters of gay equality.

The number of Americans reporting that they know somebody who is openly gay tripled between 1985 and 2000, reaching 75%. One study in 2004 found that among those who reported knowing someone who is gay, 65% favored either gay marriage or civil unions, while only 35% of those who reported not knowing any gay people supported them.



I couldn't have said it more clearly myself. But then, I knew this. You know this. You don't have to go to Harvard to figure this out.

I remember when the gay movement was always criticized for being leaderless, that we didn't have any charismatic galvanizing leaders (though I remember Harvey Milk as being pretty galvanizing and charismatic, and we all know what happened to him). One thing that I've always noticed about gay politics is that it has always been faction ridden from the very beginning divided along all kinds of lines of gender, race, class, you name it. Gay politics can really devour its own. That plus the ferocity of our enemies makes me astonished that we've been so successful over the last 40 years, more so than I ever expected. And this success came despite the AIDS epidemic which all of us at the time expected to roll back all the progress made since 1969, if not earlier.

We succeeded for the very reason Michael Klarman points out. Every gay man or lesbian or bi or transgender who comes out is a leader with dozens behind them. Everyone who comes out creates a little more space for even more to come out and make even more space. Every time someone comes out, especially in institutional settings of work, government, the military, academia, the churches, they are demanding that those institutions change to accommodate them, a just demand after decades of LGBTs distorting their own lives and sacrificing their personal happiness to accommodate those institutions. And now after 40 years of that process, it looks like we might have some critical mass to achieve real liberation.




Gay Liberation poster designed by Su Negrin, 1970


Tip of the fedora to JoeMyGod.

2 comments:

IT said...

I do hope that our witness on our blogs makes a difference....

Murdoch Matthew said...

AIDS made gays visible. The way that gays took care of one another showed that they weren't just party boys. Then the activists came in, demanding respect for gay lives, not just tolerance of "alternative lifestyles." We used to wish that gay people would turn purple to show how they were present throughout the community. "Purple" turned out to be toxic, but it did the job.