Column calling for council candidate to be honest about his orientation violated Golden Rule that says everyone’s journey is their own
After reading the column by Dallas Voice senior editor John Wright in this space last week, I feel perhaps a coming out guide refresher is in order.
For those of us who are out, especially when we’ve been out for a long time, we can sometimes too easily forget what it can be like for others. While I think it’s fair to say that I’ve been out very publicly for many years, I try to remember that it can be an easy trap to be critical of how others live out their lives when I have no real idea what it might be like to walk in their shoes. In our rush to advance our own equality, it can be so easy to forget how difficult coming out can be for many of our LGBT brothers and sisters … and for our allies, too.
After all, my journey is not yours, and yours is not mine.We all depart, travel and arrive at different places at different times, and that’s OK.
It’s OK because as LGBT people and allies we must first and foremost treat each other with the same dignity and respect that we each deserve and that we each expect in our own journeys. It’s the Golden Rule of coming out, and without it as our resolute guide, we risk creating an ugly hypocrisy that stains us all and undermines our common struggle as a movement for equality.
We should not presume people to be anything other than how they present themselves. We do not ask someone if they are straight, transgender, bisexual, lesbian, pansexual or any of the other myriad of possibilities that make up humanity. It is up to you to define yourself. It’s up to me to define myself. It is not up to anyone in the community or the Dallas Voice to tell someone what their identity is or how we should feel about it. It is up to the individual. You decide, you report. It is your story, not mine.
What I define as equality is just that: To stop letting others define our community for us, to define you or me and to dictate how we serve our community. Equality means the right to say yes or no, it is about opportunity and access. Equality means the right to make personal choices and decisions, including the right to decide to come out. Maybe your journey is going just fine without me butting in. And maybe me heaping unwanted unsolicited pressure on you to come out on MY terms is really no different at all than society heaping unwanted unsolicited pressure on you to stay in the closet. It is your story, not mine. And not theirs.
The list of issues that influence our journeys daily is long and sometimes legal: Physical safety issues (thus we have hate crime bills), employment issues (thus we need ENDA), religious issues, family issues, and a thousand other issues that may give a person pause in their willingness to discuss his/her own sexual orientation, gender identity, or other kinds of “otherness” with those around them. It is your story, not mine.
We fight the big battles to make it easier and safer for everyone to be honest about who they are, not to mandate that they do so. We worked to get “don’t ask, don’t tell” repealed so that people serving in our military didn’t have to lie about who they are — so that the decision to come out is theirs and theirs alone. It is your story, not mine.
Our parents and allies have a coming out process too. They have to be ready to field a barrage of questions from those who don’t know us. We ask them to be staunch defenders of a community they belong to by choice. The sea of red icons on Facebook should tell us we are not alone. Should we ask them their orientation? It is your story, not mine.
As a past president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, we have never asked a candidate if she or he is LGBT. Councilwoman Hunt, are you a lesbian? Representative Anchia, are you gay? The thought of asking them what we seek not to be asked of us in job interviews is repulsive to me and to my fellow Stonewall Democrats. We ask candidates if they are supportive, an advocate, what their involvement in the community is and we judge whether or not they would be good stewards of that community. If a candidate chooses to run for office as an out, open and honest LGBT person and is the best candidate, we ring that bell loudly, but being LGBT has never been the sole criterion for a Stonewall endorsement, nor should it be.
Let us not assume anything until we are certain and let us not tell a story before it is ready to be told.
Erin Moore is a past president of the Stonewall Democrats of Dallas and former co-chair of National Coming Out Day in Dallas. She can be reached at ErinMoore@aol.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 29, 2013,