While digging through a dresser drawer full of white T-shirts, I happened upon one that I hadn’t thought of in a long time. The front of the shirt has a pink triangle, and the words “Becoming Visible.”
The shirt was a souvenir from the “Becoming Visible” exhibit at the New York City Public Library that was on display in September 1994. (There might be a lesson here in my needing to go through old clothes more frequently, but that is a separate story.)
In 1994, I had been with my husband (called a partner at the time) for nine years already, and was quietly “out.” You know how it goes. You show up at every work function with your “friend” or “roommate,” and chances are good that eventually people will put two and two together and make some probably correct assumptions.
The exhibit was called “the largest and most extensive display of lesbian and gay history ever mounted in a museum or gallery space.”
In an article in the Sept. 6, 1994 issue of The New York Times, the exhibit was described as follows:
“It is history told through unorthodox artifacts, beginning with a blue neon ‘Stonewall’ sign and banks of public telephones at which visitors can hear oral recollections of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar on Christopher Street, and of the nights in June 1969 when patrons battled the police rather than acquiesce to another raid.
“While this event is regarded as a watershed in homosexuals' struggle for equal rights, ‘Becoming Visible’ stretches decades further. There is a red AIDS ribbon from the 1980s, a ‘Lavender Menace’ T-shirt from 1970 and a ‘blue discharge’ issued to an Army private in 1943 for ‘undesirable habits or traits of character.’”
Here we are, 19 years later, and I would suggest that we are still “becoming visible.”
Life, thankfully, is changing for us in the LGBT community, whether conservative fundamentalists like it or not. A lot of the change for us has to do with our being willing and able to raise our hands and say “yes, I am.”
Of course, we (the LGBT community) have always been here. You probably remember the description of the relationships of Jonathan and David, and Ruth and Naomi, in the Bible. (Yes, they were, whether anybody wants to admit it or not.) And you might have had a dear old aunt what’s-her-name, who never married, and lived with her best friend Sadie for decades. Chances are there is a story there, but maybe nobody ever called it what it was.
People tend to fear what they don’t understand. You remember all the controversy surrounding the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” for the military. I wonder if some people really believed that until that day, everyone they served with in the armed forces was heterosexual. We’ve always been there, just some people didn’t know.
Will there be a massive number of gay young men join the Boy Scouts now that they are no longer discriminating? Probably not. (Personally, my idea of roughing it is when room service is late, so I would have no interest in sleeping bags, tents and cross country hikes, even if I were that age.) But there have been some hearty gay souls in Scouting ever since the program started.
To me, every time someone we’ve known for a long time “comes out,” we as a community become more visible. Over time, what will happen, I am convinced, is it will become more clear that we are all in this together (LGBT, straight, whatever).
Everyone just wants to love and be loved. Everyone just wants to feel secure, be treated with dignity and respect, and have the same opportunities as everyone else. Committed relationships, whether they are called marriages or not, same sex or opposite sex, have challenges, because there are two people involved, and different people have different beliefs, ideas, goals and backgrounds.
Occasionally I will make the mistake of reading the comments related to a new story about a member of the LGBT community on Yahoo or some other website, and inevitably there will be comments about “the gay agenda.” As we become more visible, our “agenda” will become more visible — equal protection under the law, period.
Take care of yourself.
What’s your “story”?
Your story is what you tell yourself, others, and the world, what you really believe, and feel, about life. It may not be a verbally telling, but rather the choices you make that might actually be based on shame, fear, resentment and regret — about a past experience, or what someone told us and we accepted as the truth. But we deserve to take care of ourselves, and make choices that are in our best interests.
Join me on Monday, April 17, at noon PT for a FREE live online event titled, “It’s My Story, and It’s Sticking To Me.” You’ll have the opportunity to call in to make comments and ask questions. Go HERE to register.
The Rev. Jerry Troyer, a native of San Diego, is the senior minister of Joyful Living Church, a non-denominational New Thought spiritual community. He is the author of the new book, “Coming Out To Ourselves … Admitting, Accepting And Embracing Who We Truly Are. Troyer and his husband, also named Jerry, live in the San Diego area with their golden retriever Roxie. Visit his website HERE.