Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sunscreen and Love

Since yesterday was “National Coming out day” I think today should be “National closet organizer day”. Everyone in the US can ceremoniously tidy up their closets. We can pull out our warm jackets from storage, and question once again if we will ever really wear those shoes. You know the shoes I’m talking about. Perhaps we can donate them to a good charity. Then we can imagine someone unknowingly “walking a mile in them”. It is advisable to have a notebook handy while cleaning out one’s closet in order to jot down any stray metaphors one can identify out of the clutter.

In Salt Lake City yesterday a few hundred folks dressed in pink shirts and gathered together for a group hug. I learned about the gathering late last night (early this morning?) via a large picture on the Salt Lake Tribune’s website. The idea was to form a human pink dot to show support for LGBT folks who are considering coming out of the closet. I would have loved to have been in that crowd. I even have a pink T-shirt I obtained as the result of an unfortunate laundry incident.

The kids were in school, and I never get invited to these types of things by myself. As a pasty middle-aged man I am the image of the type of person who locks people into closets –both literal and metaphorical- and keeps them there for his pleasure. I would think the celebration of coming out of a closet would be severely dulled if coming out simply meant changing closets.
Pink Dot

Sometimes it is difficult for people to “come out” about what they feel about themselves. A young (25 year-old) woman in Hildale Utah “came out” of her polygamist relationship with Warren Jeffs yesterday. She ran away to a neighbor’s house (the neighbor just happened to be the self-proclaimed leader of a rival polygamist sect) with little more than the clothes on her back. The FLDS men surrounded the house, and the resulting standoff went on for some time. Eventually the Sheriff and deputies showed up and transported the young woman to safety. She should be welcomed out of her closet too.

I think “National Coming Out Day” should be extended to embrace almost anyone leaving a metaphorical closet. I can imagine a world where the act of declaring one’s sexual preference is less controversial than declaring ones political party, and not because of an extreme inflammation of the already too violent partisan rhetoric. I can imagine a time when the question of what type of person someone might be interested in is less important than the question of whether they are interested in me; for me that time is now.

“Come out into the sun, we’ve got sunscreen and love”

Unfortunately one of the things we remember on “National Coming Out Day” (October 11th) is the last day 21-year-old Matthew Sheppard lived. He died on October 12th 1998 after a week-long battle to survive injuries he incurred while being tortured on October 6th. Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson convinced Matthew that they were gay so he would accept their “ride home”. When they were done torturing Mathew they tied his body to a fence to serve as crow-food. When they found him 18 hours later (a passing cyclist thought he was an interesting scarecrow until he looked closer) his face was covered in blood except for two thin tracks where his tears had washed his face clean. Matthew never recovered from his coma.

It is somewhat insensitive of me to dilute the denunciation of such horrific acts with a vapid call for some sort of general peace, love, and understanding. This is probably one of the reasons why I don’t get invited to these things.

The other is my general lack of interest in some particulars. As a scientist I’m asked questions about the validity of evidence to support a biological basis for homosexuality.

“Why does it matter?” I ask: “If it is a choice or not? Shouldn’t people be able to make these sorts of choices without being harassed?”

I don’t like looking at people's adult choices as a congenital defect. I don’t think we need to expend resources researching LGBT as if it is a disease that may someday be cured.

I know there are people hamstrung by questions about morality. Even if I take off my shoes and socks I will run out of digits counting just the churches I can think of that define homosexuality as a sin-thing. How can anyone come out knowing that god thinks their lifestyle is an abomination? Well…I’ve got an idea…Try Atheism.

“Come Out Come Out Wherever You Are”

That’s right! You too can live a moral adult lifestyle of your choosing. Learn to cast off religious guilt by casting off religion. No need to talk to your invisible friends in the dark. We are waiting in the sunshine with sunscreen and love!

And if you still have those voices you might want to see someone about them.



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