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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Why isn't today Straight Coming Out Day? Because they don't have to.


Today is the 28th annual National Coming Out Day.

Even some within the LGBT tribe find Coming Out Day one commemoration too many.

October makes me feel like a bad gay with its pumpkin spice items, the inevitable transphobic Cait Jenner costumes, and most of all: National Coming Out Day (NCOD).

I missed the first six. I can’t remember if, in those pre-social media days, I even knew it existed.

No. 7 I was busy falling in love. I offer that as an affirmative defense. It was pretty nice, and it lasted five years.

I think I still didn’t know about it, since I came out in January, 1996, way off target, but when it worked for me. Since then I have learned every day is another potential Coming Out Day. Seven times a week until death I get sometimes none, other times multiple, challenges to my legal rights, social standing, religious beliefs, family ties, general freedom from hassling, and personal safety.

When I came out, I hoped I could just get it over with and move on to the next thing. I had grappled with it for thirty years and was inclined to self-delusion.  I sent out hundreds of letters in my “Git’er done” campaign twenty years ago.

I was, of course, wrong. Coming out cost me an astonishing number of friendships, my job, my church membership, my thirty year association with the Boy Scouts (not even being an Eagle offset that news), and my place in the circle of what turned out a conditionally tightly-knit family.

I realized I should have gotten it over with a lot sooner. It couldn’t have been much worse, and I might have been like my lucky high school and college friends celebrating thirtieth, fortieth and moretieth anniversaries together.

It also meant I sat on the sidelines of the AIDS plague until way too late, and the knowledge of all I did not do is something that will haunt me to the end of my life. Believers in karma may feel this is just.

I know- and know of- a lot of people who find the multiplicity of gay events irksome. If nothing else, it leads to more self-indulgent social media memorization than was the case than we dared not speak out names.

Those folks who find days like today tiresome are generally subdividable into two types.

The first comprises those who have a shallow, if still welcome, tolerance of LGBT people, and really don’t wish to know any that they already do. They are the well-meaning sort who think sitting at the same table with a gay for Thanksgiving- with no profanity or brandished carving knives- is enough of a breakthrough for this life. They wonder why the gays have to keep banging on about new stuff they want. Isn’t marriage enough?

Here’s an example: a friend on Facebook asked, after the Trump Talk Tape surfaced and an Alabama senator said he thought pussy-grabbing is not sexual assault,

So I wonder if a gay man with intents on greater intimacies grabbed Senator Jeff Sessions' genitals, would he consider that offensive and sexual assault or instead just horsing around?

Sensing he hadn’t given the matter much thought, other than to indulge other commenters with a chance to post variations on “ick”, I reminded him,

The senator would be within his rights to kill or maim his failed seducer, asserting the "gay panic" defense. While it doesn't always work- the two men who murdered Matthew Shepard, who died tied to a fence and abandoned eighteen years ago tomorrow, asserted it unsuccessfully- only one US state has banned it as a legal defense.

It’s like the experience of another friend, many years ago. Fishing for his parents’ potential response to coming out, he asked his mother what she thought of a Coming Out Day story on the news. “I don’t want to talk about that,” she said.

And when he finally screwed up his courage and came out, his mother replied, “Fine. Do we have to talk about this?”

The second group who fret about gay calendar appropriation just doesn’t like gay people, period.

The ones who clean up the best put their animus in surrogate, “special rights” terms. Why do the gays need a whole month for Gay Pride? And another one for History? And all these individual days?

Why can’t there be a Straight Pride Parade?

It’s a common topic, as Bryan Lowder wrote in Slate in 2014:

Show me an out gay person, and I will show you a person who has, at least once in her life, had to listen patiently as some straight friend, family member, or total stranger asks why we need LGBTQ Pride. The straight person, after all, doesn’t have a festival or parade to celebrate his lifestyle, so why do the gays get one? Why do we have to flaunt our pride in everyone else’s face?

And If you nod approvingly at that one, you’ll generally find the conversation segueing into why we don’t have White Pride days either.

The Group 2 folks are not the sort to look up why something like National Coming Out Day exists, but they like to joke about how it makes it way easier to play “smear the queer” than it was in high school.

Of course, the answer is, absolutely nothing’s stopping you from having a Straight Pride Parade. Just announce you’re gonna do it, state the reasons you feel it’s needed, and expect to take some time to nudge it along until it takes off (Hint: when you score a beer distributor’s flatbed for a float, you’re aces).

Coming Out Day, for example, took a long time to rise to a high enough level of public awareness to irritate people. As one history notes,

On Oct. 11, 1987, half a million people participated in the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. It was the second such demonstration in our nation’s capital and resulted in the founding of a number of LGBTQ organizations, including the National Latino/a Gay & Lesbian Organization (LLEGĂ“) and AT&T’s LGBTQ employee group, LEAGUE.  The momentum continued four months after this extraordinary march as more than 100 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer activists from around the country gathered in Manassas, Va., about 25 miles outside Washington, D.C. Recognizing that the LGBTQ community often reacted defensively to anti-LGBTQ actions, they came up with the idea of a national day to celebrate coming out and chose the anniversary of that second march on Washington to mark it. The originators of the idea were Rob Eichberg, a founder of the personal growth workshop, The Experience, and Jean O'Leary, then head of National Gay Rights Advocates. From this idea the National Coming Out Day was born.

"Most people think they don't know anyone gay or lesbian, and in fact everybody does. It is imperative that we come out and let people know who we are and disabuse them of their fears and stereotypes, Eichberg said.

As one account tells it,

The march was a response to (A) the AIDS crisis and growing hostility to Reagan’s unwillingness to confront said crisis, and (B) the appalling Bowers v. Hardwick Supreme Court decision that upheld a Georgia sodomy law (which deemed consensual homosexual intercourse illegal). In response to these goings on, major LGBT leaders and activists began a series of organizing meetings that led to a set of clearly articulated goals:

1. The legal recognition of lesbian and gay relationships
2. The repeal of all laws that make sodomy between consenting adults a crime
3. A presidential order banning discrimination by the federal government
4. Passage of the congressional lesbian and gay civil rights bill
5. An end to discrimination against people with AIDS, ARC, HIV-positive status or those perceived to have AIDS. Massive increases in funding for AIDS education, research, and patient care. Money for AIDS, not for war.
6. Reproductive freedom, the right to control our own bodies, and an end to sexist oppression
7. An end to racism in this country and apartheid in South Africa

These seven goals solidified the politics of the march and its events, which spanned six days at the Capitol. Events included a mass wedding and a display of civil disobedience. In these early days of LGBT (Lesbian / Gay / Bisexual / Transgender) activism, before the QIA was added (Questioning / Intersex / Asexual), participants were engaged in a visible, transgressive queerness.

It took a while to catch on. Facebook has made it much easier to come out en masse. As early as 2009, The Advocate ran an article on the etiquette of coming out that way; by 2016, some 800,000 people used Facebook to set the record straight that they weren’t:


Besides social media- where even the reach of trolls has limits, even now (like all LGBT public events- and laws protecting LGBT people) Coming Out Day is mostly observed in cities and towns- and some states- that have already reached a fairly high level of embracing diversity.

That’s why most Gay Pride events have the look and feel of parties, with parades and celebrations: in places where it is safe to have one, people can look back on when it wasn’t, and be glad.

That kind of history is the main reason Straight Pride events don’t proliferate after nearly forty years of trying. They don’t have one.

There’s no long-running, ongoing, ripped-from-the-headlines-this-morning struggle against legal, and/or socially-approved, singling out of straight white folk for discrimination. It’s their world. The rest of us just blundered into it, and have tried to make the best of getting wrong directions from God’s GPS.

Straight people don’t have to come out. As we know from many religious leaders, being straight is not a choice, so everyone just takes it as a given.

But some feel the need to backstop their anxieties. Losing two months out of twelve to gay stuff is bad enough without them chipping away, day by day by day, until the whole calendar is gone.

So in 2015, a Seattle man called Anthony Rebello announced a Straight Pride Parade in his home city.

He was, one account, put it, inspired by a wildly successful Washington, D.C. parade of cured former gays in 2013. That event, set for the steps of the Supreme Court, drew a crowd of “nine former homosexuals (including an ex-transgender) and a half-dozen more allies” nevertheless showed up,” Christopher Doyle, its organizer, posted on his website.

I am not sure Doyle apprehended that, for all-in transgender Americans, there is no "ex" status.

Doyle said tens of thousands more stayed home because the gays- who have butched up since the 1969 Stonewall riots and are now commonly referred to as “thugs,” homofascists” and “jackbooted queers”- will settle for nothing less than everything in a drive for power that has, so far, still seen way more beatings, arrests, murders and political defeats than victories.

But oppression is in the eye of the oppressed, thus Anthony Rebello’s block party. You can read about it on Rebello’s Facebook page, “Heterosexual Parade.” There, he stated his case:

We all have the right to celebrate the way of life we have chosen for ourselves. In the name of equality & equal rights, I have created this event to celebrate our right to be heterosexual, and to encourage younger heterosexuals that they should be proud of their heterosexuality (:

172 people signed up for Rebello’s parade, which he got a permit to hold on the same route the Gay Pride Parade used to use, up Broadway on Capitol Hill (it got too big and moved downtown).

Rebello was the only one who attended.


He, too, blamed the mean gays:

This is a positive event that the LGBT community tried to turn into something negative – not everything has to do with gay people.

A lot of heterosexuals don’t want their pictures taken because they are scared of the LGBT community.

Due to vocal threats and bullying from the LGBT community, some business owners feared for the well-being of their business and families. For this reason, some preferred to remain anonymous by name, however, here is a list of timestamped signees with industry indication for those who have signed on, thus far, showing the incredibly large outpouring of support for the passage of HB2 on the North Carolina business community.

The public list carries 72 names, including out of state businesses and businesses that cannot be proven to exist, and excluding a number the group’s director Tami Fitzgerald, had to remove after receiving  that they had been added without authorization and contrary to their views.

The secret list, Fitzgerald claims, has gone from strength to strength in six months, rising from 350 “organizations” to 373, then 385, 393 and 401. Oddly, if you click through to the list, it is made up of 332 unidentified outfits compiled between March 22 and March 25, 2016.

After the Supreme Court nationalized marriage equality, Rebello said to hell with the smiley face stuff, and posted this on his blog:

I think it’s a trend. A cry for attention. From your government, a distraction. For $. I have previously stated how I feel about marriage in this post: MARRIAGE I have also created an event: Heterosexual Parade Gay Mafia? Maybe animals should be allowed to get married? Would they govern and tax them too? While they’re at it, how about equal rights for insects? In my opinion, there is a difference between a man and a woman. If you can’t appreciate those differences, you can’t enjoy those differences. I don’t agree with boys turning into girls, and I don’t agree with girls turning into boys. The word/meaning of “Pride” doesn’t belong to the gay/lgbt community, it belongs to everyone. That includes us good old fashioned straight people. The way I see it, in my opinion, some boys never turn into men, and some girls never turn into women. What a shitshow.

“Welcome to the other side of the rainbow” Really? No thanks.

So you can see there are some flaws in the marketing concept for Straight Pride and its cognates.

National Coming Out Day is about rejecting the fear of fear of rejection- or worse.

Straight Pride, while presenting itself as celebratory, casts its setbacks and failures to thrive in opposition, and caused by, the LGBT community.

I’ll be the first to admit that my tribe yields to no one in out mockery and derision of such events; straight folk, after all, own the longest-running national series of hyper-heterosexual, patriotic and Christianist celebrations in history: NFL football and the NASCAR circuit. Thanks to their celebrations, many Americans have died never having seen “60 Minutes” in its scheduled time on CBS.

New Year’s Eve in Times Square is another big straight pride. The end of World War II generated some of the most famous Straight Pride moments in history, right out in public. There are no photos of gay sailors kissing passersby on V-J Day, and when The New Yorker tried to imagine it in 1996, many, many Americans got very, very upset.


Wikipedia underscores the troubles well-meaning Straight Pride organizers face trying to  galvanize their tribe:

The concept of LGBT pride originates as a movement which seeks to challenge the negative images of LGBT people by being openly identified with a culturally stigmatized group; as such, it creates a discomfort.

In this context, the terms straight pride and heterosexual pride exist as an argument criticizing gay pride as unnecessary, stating by contrast with heterosexuality that heterosexuals "don't talk about straight pride", don't have "straight pride rallies", and would be seen as ridiculous if they were to "band together and have a heterosexual pride [...] parade".

This appeal to ridicule argument expresses the idea that showing pride for a homosexual orientation is equally absurd. Analysts of LGBT rights state as a counter-argument that mainstream culture offers many approved social venues (weddings, baptism, family reunions...) for heterosexuals to express and celebrate their sexual orientation in public, while homosexuals usually feel isolated and pride parades offer them support and an opportunity for socializing.

Incidents where the slogan or concept of "Straight pride" caused controversy have occurred since the late 1980s. In 1988, for example, Vermont Republican John Burger asked the state's Governor to establish a "Straight Pride Day". In 1990, rallies in support of Straight Pride were held at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (organized by the group Young Americans for Freedom) and nearby Mount Holyoke College. In 1991, conservative organizations at University of Massachusetts Amherst organized a "Straight Pride" rally attended by about 50 people and protested by a crowd estimated to be ten times larger.

Events which draw media attention are "Straight pride parades" or "Straight Pride days",often organized in response to similar events organized by gay groups. Other events, typically occurring in United States high schools where First Amendment concerns arise, have revolved around people desiring to wear "Straight Pride" t-shirts.

At a 2010 Tea Party Express rally in Lansing, the state capital of Michigan, a vendor was selling T-shirts printed with the slogan "Straight Pride". Some state and national gay advocacy groups denounced the shirts, claiming that they echoed the use by racist groups of a "white pride" slogan. Some of the opposition arose from reports that the shirt seller was a sponsor of the event with a cut of sales funding the Tea Party Express, although those reports may not have been accurate.

Support for straight pride events is often based on religious objections to homosexuality. Groups such as the White Aryan Resistance and Ku Klux Klan have also tried to oppose "gay pride" by stressing straight pride.

Here in North Carolina, State Senator Buck Newton has embraced the tag “Buck’s Law” for the discriminatory HB2 law he jammed through the General Assembly in one day, March 23, 2016.

As the Republican candidate for attorney general, he gave a speech to a pro-HB2 rally in Raleigh on April 26.
Citing his Democratic Party opponent, Josh Stein, Newton told the crowd,

“He wants to make me the poster child of this bill. And you know what? I say ‘bring it on,’ ” Newton said, his arms outstretched.

“Go home, tell your friends and family who had to work today what this is all about and how hard we had to fight to keep our state straight,” he said.

Newton’s campaign is part of the biggest Straight Pride celebration of all: Election Day.

Every two years since the founding of the American Republic, those the law considered worthy of the franchise have gathered to cast ballots for the celebration, maintenance and defense of their privileges.

In North Carolina, the celebrations grow with every vote, and the turnout goes up, despite counterintuitive notion that democracy works best when Democrats vote least.

Hot off the Citizens United decision in 2010, the GOP bought control of the General Assembly. Having passed a redistricting plan to gerrymander themselves into power through 2020, they won veto-proof majorities that made the election of a Republican governor superfluous, and passed a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality in 2012.

This election they seek vindication for HB2, and the rebranding of North Carolina from “First in Freedom” to “The Straight State.”

I tell ya, it could be a vest-button buster, this year’s election. The pridiest pride parade ever. Yuge. And the gays will pay for it.

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