Coming Out as an LGBT Ally

Pride

Junior high is the worst.

 If you can, I suggest calling in sick for 7th and 8th grade. If you’re already past it, then you know what I’m talking about, and if you’re not there yet, I suggest you stock up on anti-perspirant and emotional armor. You’re going to need both. (Yes, that was a joke about the ruthlessness and relative smelliness of middle-schoolers). You might want to forgo the Drakkar Noir though. That’s just speaking from experience. It doesn’t help. Just makes you stand out even more.

I think I was called “faggot” at least twice a day for the entirety of middle school. As insults go, I don’t think I even fully grasped what it meant at the time, and in the last ten or fifteen years, when it’s been hurled at me (mostly on the street, and out of nowhere, and at least once with an accompanying stone lobbed from a passing Ford) I’ve chosen to take it as a compliment. I have a fondness for my own penis, but you can keep yours to yourself. I’m sure it’s great and all, but it just does nothing for me.

But here’s the thing.

I woke up this morning and realized that I need to say this: I support your right to love freely and openly.

I don’t think I ever felt the need to “come out” and print that in bold-face type before today, but for some reason it feels necessary. Last night I had a dream that I was singing for a wedding between two women. The accompanist was a friend of mine who was once in a long term relationship with a guy she didn’t know was gay. The song I was singing was “Lily of the Valley,” by Queen. This song is, by most accounts, a song written by Freddie Mercury about living for years with Mary Austin, but feeling that it wasn’t where he ought to be.

I woke up from this dream this morning, the song still fresh in my head, and sang it all the way to work. My daughter’s eyes were wide, hearing her father singing so loud and so high, and she laughed and said, “Again, Tato!” when I’d finish a phrase.

There’s no question as to why I had this dream last night. Right before bed I was reading a story about Russia’s “Gay propaganda ban,” and for a little while last night I was also researching weddings because in a few months I’m going to be performing the marriage ceremony for a couple of my friends. They’re not gay, but they are interracial, and forty years ago, they would have faced the same hurdles that my gay friends face today.

So, I feel like today is the day I have to come out. Ellen Page, the actress, came out this weekend, and my reaction was, “Cool. Good for her. Sad that she felt she had to hide.” And then this morning, I thought, “Are you hiding at all?” And my response surprised me. At first the answer was, “No. Of course not.” But then another answer came. “Well. I may be hiding a little bit of the pain that I felt as an eighth grader who sang his heart out on stage and then was pretty constantly harassed for his interest in music. I may be hiding a little bit of the sadness I still feel that I never learned how to dance properly because I was afraid of being picked on even more than I already was.” Even though I love to move my body, and I dance like a crazy person when you get a couple drinks in me.

I don’t hide the fact that I love Queen. It’s not a huge secret that I wrote a letter to Brian May asking if I could audition to sing with the band after Freddie passed away. I never sent that letter because even as an idiot high school freshman I realized it was a silly and selfish dream.

I don’t hide my love for Oklahoma, the Music Man, Danny Kaye, or Bernstein’s Mass.

I don’t hide my derision for the concept of “keeping marriage sacred,” when historically marriage has been a property agreement for far longer than it’s had anything to do with religion.

What I may hide just a little, is the sadness and anger I feel when people I care about say hurtful things about the fight for LGBT rights.

What I may hide from is confrontation, with people for whom I feel change is supremely unlikely.

What I may hide is the shame from those same 8th grade hallways where I likely lashed out at someone smaller than me because I was trying to deflect some of the sludge I was dodging on a daily basis.

So, this is me. Coming out. I am an LGBT ally. I don’t know that I even knew what that meant back in junior high, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have felt safe coming out as one back then. But in the years that I’ve been a working musician in this town, and the years that I’ve been a human on this planet, I feel like you need to pick a side, and I now think I need to raise my voice in affirmation. There are populations on this planet with pretty sweeping majorities who feel it’s quite fine to demonize these folks. I think it’s necessary to say, “No. Not cool. I do not stand for that.”

And even as I write it out, I feel like it’s the most obvious thing in the world, and to feel otherwise makes no sense.

Be good to each other. Love who you want.

Don’t be a dick.

(photo credit:   Guillaume Paumier            http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

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