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National Coming Out Day 10/11/10 and bullying


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We hear a lot, lately, about bullying. Bullying has been around as long as we humans have been. Some bullies are made, by circumstances in their rearing, and some are just born bullies. I think we can all agree that bullying is wrong and is a problem we should all strive to correct. Those bullies, who are created by circumstance, can be helped to understand what is at the root of their bullying and, in most cases, can change. Those born bullies, however, will always be bullies and all we can hope for is a change in behavior. A change in behavior is not a cure to bullying but can be brought about by strict enforcement of anti-bullying rules for both children in school and for adults. Bullying, in some form, will always be with us. How is it that even verbal bullying has such a profound effect on us?

I think that, in many cases, we let the bullies convince us that they're right about us?that we're flawed, in some way, and will always be flawed. We begin to believe that we have no future and this leads to despair which, in too many cases, leads to just giving up and suicide as our only way out. What does this have to do with Coming Out Day? Everything!

As much as we don't want it and most deny it, we who are older are role models. How many of us saw older gay committed couples as we were growing up? How many saw successful gays leading a happy life as an openly gay man or woman? How many younger kids have seen these examples which could give them hope and a reason to live? Damn few!

I'm not now advocating, nor encouraging, that teens come out unless they are absolutely sure that they will be accepted by family and friends. Teens need a safety net and sometimes that net is made up of silence. Many are still not mature enough to withstand the bullying without being shown that they have hope. What they see, instead of hope, is nothing.

Sure, they can come online and read all the posts about how mistreated we all are and how we're being denied our human rights but what do they see in their real life neighborhoods and towns? Where are the adults who should be showing them that they can live a good life? Where are all those internet posters with all their whining? Hiding! They've fallen prey to the gays are flawed argument and use the net to vent in the safety of anonymity.

Codey said this much better than I ever could in his poem http://www.codeysworld.com/codey/poems/doors_and_masks.htm. If we want to change the way things are, we need to become activists. You don't have to march in the streets or carry signs to be an activist?you only have to be you and proud of who you are. You only have to open that door and step through. Will it be easy? Probably not but, if lives are saved, it'll be worth it. We have to show these younger gays that hope is based in reality and not some abstract idea. Showing them that reality will inspire them to hope. The reality they see now only shows them an unfulfilling life lived in anonymity and anger.

:shock: Tim

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Where are the adults who should be showing them that they can live a good life? Where are all those internet posters with all their whining? Hiding! They’ve fallen prey to the gays are flawed argument and use the net to vent in the safety of anonymity.

That's not totally fair. They may very well have fallen prey to fear of bullying, and in no way believe the false 'gays are flawed' argument. They may not have anything to gain, or even offer, by standing up, out and proud, but would instead place themselves at some risk. Not everyone lives in large towns and cities, in which there is some anonymity just by being one of a million; some live in towns of 1000 or fewer, and it may well be a town that is mostly intolerant.

I'll be perfectly frank; I live in a small town, I have no relationship, I have no chance of a relationship, I have no interest in a relationship (the main reason why I don't have a chance of one), and as such I have nothing much to offer anyone by being 'out', but I do risk possible problems. Probably not, but nevertheless, the 'reward' or 'payoff' for coming out is nil and the downside of doing so is finite, if not huge, so there is no point at all in doing so. On the other hand, if something were to change this balance, like me seeing somebody being bullied, I'd be 'out' and in the fracas immediately. All I ask is for the balance to be close to even so that there is some benefit to be accrued compared to the risk taken.

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I will attempt a comment on this interesting and thought-provoking post from Tim.

It's right that young people need positive role-models, and gay kids need to be able to see that a fulfilling and love-filled life, perhaps with a beloved life-partner is possible and attainable for them. So the more older gay couples who are visible in their neighbourhood and in the media the better. Without such role models, especially if the prevailing viewpoint in their neighbourhood is homophobic (not all neighbourhoods are San Francisco or Brighton or Sydney) they may fear to be open about their sexuality, indeed some may bury it until they deny it even to themselves. Those are the ones who will likely enter a heterosexual marriage and live a 'straight' lifestyle until, for some, they 'burst' and risk destroying everything and everybody around them in order to end a life of self-deception.

My story in the anthology 'I Do Two' is about precisely this issue. A youngster (he's 15) knows he's gay but dreads going through life without the loving relationship his parents have, assuming that his sexuality bars him from such. Only when he is introduced to positive older gay role-models does he see his future prospects in more positive light. Once he is confident that he has as much hope of a loving relationship as his straight friends do, he plucks up the courage to come out to his parents.

However we are all the product of our circumstances and many of us older gay men suffered exactly that same young life that we're hoping fewer of the younger generation will have to experience. And we did bury our sexuality and in later years when we finally come to terms with it, the house of cards we have built is sheltering not only ourselves but dependants, loved ones, a social circle. For some, it will nevertheless be possible to come out without destroying other people. But for some the responsible decision is to stay in the closet. Sad, but pragmatic.

I occasionally join the meets of a gay walking club, and of the men in their 50's that I meet there, fully half of them are or have been married to women.

I wonder how many older gay folks there are who have chosen not to come out and be visible in the community, but could do so without serious fallout among their friends, family, workmates, or significant others. I suggest not many. I suggest that pretty well all the gay adults who could come out have come out. Surely coming out is such a liberating experience that anyone who can will do it?

Maybe it's too much to hope that full liberation for young gay kids is possible within a single generation. If we can make things better for the young generation at least a little bit, and they in turn make it a little better for the generation that comes after them, we'll get there before too long.

My two penn'orth


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