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COMMENTARY: The out, loud and proud myth of the gay community

I wish we cared as much about the homeless person sleeping in a box on the street as we do about Lance Armstrong and his doping or Jodie Foster and her gayness.

I wish we were as involved with feeding the hungry as we were with Manti Te’o and his fake girlfriend and wondering if he indeed is gay and made up the whole story to cover his gayness.

Why do we obsess so over celebrity? Why do we care what other people do or say or don’t do or don’t say?

I had a few people think they could put me in my place last week after I wrote a piece about Jodie Foster. All I said was that it wasn’t her responsibility to make the world any easier for any gay person. There were many who agreed with me, however there were many who made sure to tell me how very wrong I was. Just so you know – I’m not a very good lesbian, I have no idea of the struggle – and I need to just “sit down and shut up.”

This is something I do not understand about the gay community. We – at times – are our own worst enemy. I understand that those who came before me had to fight and claw and get in the face of a whole lot of people for me to have any of the freedoms I now enjoy. I get that, and I respect those who did the fighting and dying. I understand too that those were different times, different people, a different generation.

The thing is – not everyone wants to fight. Some simply want to live lives of quiet dignity with the person they love surrounded by friends and family who love and support them. They don’t want to stand on a corner with a sign that says: “Yep, I’m gay,” or “I’m here, I’m queer, get used to it.” They just want to live their life. And who are we to tell them they must live any other way?

It’s a different world now. The louder people yell, the more people tend to walk away – or call you crazy – or use you as an example of what is wrong with the gay community. For me, the people who yell at me are the people I simply ignore; and those who send me hate-filled, in-your-face emails, I choose to delete those emails without even reading all of it. I won’t listen, I won’t read, I will walk away.

I didn’t come out until I was 50. I didn’t care about or listen to gay celebrities – and I certainly wouldn’t have followed the lead of an angry, loud lesbian who was spewing hate and anger in my face. My role models were the people I was working with who were living quiet “out” lives dealing with the day to day struggles of life. Candie, Thom, Terry – these were my role models – these were the people who hugged me and encouraged me and loved me right out of the closet.

I don’t care what the gay celebrity or athlete or politician does or doesn’t do with their personal life. I care that Susan and I have opened the hearts and minds of friends, neighbors and family by simply living our lives with dignity and a quiet sense of calm. We don’t have signs on our front door to announce to the world that we’re gay, but we certainly don’t walk away from the fact either. Our home has become the gathering place for our neighborhood – and our neighbors sit with us at the San Diego Gay Pride Parade in support – and they cast their vote in support and they tell their friends and they tell their friends – and hearts and minds are changed.

Why do you care so much about what others do to make change when you have inside of you the ability to change the world by simply being you? Do not let anyone tell you that you must participate in the process – that you must be out and loud and proud. If you are out even just to yourself or your partner or a few friends and family – you are most surely participating in the process. It’s your life.

Yes, as a community we still have things for which we must fight. But the fight doesn’t have to be taken to the streets with yelling and cursing and in-your-face intimidation. The fight can be living your life openly, quietly with dignity and respect, and expecting the same from your neighbor. The fight can be knowing and living as if we are not different from everyone – but that we are exactly the same and deserving of a life filled with love, respect, dignity, happiness and freedom. And we most surely do deserve these things; even the Constitution says so.

Barb Hamp Weicksel was born in 1952 in Pennsylvania and moved to California in the early 1980s, where she met her partner Susan. They've been together some 30 years and share the love of Susan's four children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Her blog, Barb's Gift of Gab, can be found HERE.