The following clip from PBS’ News Hour crossed my Facebook stream a few minutes ago. It’s a short piece by and about iO Tillett Wright- artist, activist, actor, speaker, TV host and writer. His work deals with identity. I immediately shared it. There are a number of things that come to mind. First, he shows an understanding, appreciation of why many older LGBT folk take pride in ‘their letter‘. Their hard-won right to identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans – or the newer additions such as Queer. He acknowledges that it is their, OUR, fight that’s leading us to a world where new identities such as genderQueer, Gender Non-Conforming, genderFluid or genderCreative are becoming more wide-spread.
At the same time, it reminds me of a time when someone claiming to be Bisexual was presumed to be “half way to gaytown,” – there certainly were many people who did make the journey of self-discovery to Gay via Bi. It happened far too often to be dismissed, but of course it was not true for everyone. As noted above, we were tied to our self-identity, ‘our letter‘, for political reasons. And that same reasoning- Come Out, Stand Up, Be Counted– often fueled our reactions to actors (and other persons of fame) who announce they ‘reject labels’ and decline to be honest about their sexual orientation or gender identity:
“Queers in the closet in positions of power
Doing a dance on thin ice
Deals with the devil to be heroes for an hour
How long must we pay the price“
Queers In The Closet [from Be Political, Not Polite, 1991]
Lyrics © Romanovsky & Phillips, used by permission.
While I continue to stongly encourage folks to Come Out, that does not have to mean picking ‘their letter‘. Come out as Gender (whatever) so that you are living more authentically. Come out so that people around you can see you, can see that diversity of gender expression is natural. Come out so that another person who has been afraid to be themselves can see they are not alone. Come out as kinky, as a spiritual queer person, as all the beauty you hold within. Come out to make the world a better place (yes, I went to that old expression).