Pride in the Shadow of Fear

Written by Joan Stevenson—

As the fall approaches and the days start getting colder, we fondly look back to the summertime and the season of Pride in the D. Whether it’s the Motor City Pride celebration in Hart Plaza, Ferndale Pride or Hotter Than July, the Midwest’s oldest Black LGBT pride celebration, Detroit certainly knows how to throw a great Pride celebration.

Pride is a celebration; it’s a celebration of who you are and the freedom to live and love how you please and freely sharing that with the world. Pride in who you are and how you want to live your life, free of bullies or harassment, with all of the same human freedoms, rights, and privileges as any straight person. Yet in this shadow of Pride, there are still some who are fearful of coming out.

Coming out is a big decision for some people. Depending on your circumstances, it can be quite traumatic. I know kids who have been kicked out of their homes because they came out to their parents, or shunned by friends. (I say they were NOT friends in the first place.) I don’t understand how a parent could disown their child just because of who they love. I mean, that’s your child and you’re going to render them homeless or cut them out of your life because they play for the other team?

The question is, coming out: do you or don’t you? Have you? If not, why not? Are you afraid of how you will be treated by friends and co-workers? Family? Religious concerns?

In the black community there was much shame associated with being gay. It was thought that the worst thing a black man could do (aside from marrying a white woman) was to be gay. Being gay was considered the “white man’s disease,” so it was “Boy, you got no business messing around with that!” or “You need to stop playing!” and “Get over it!” Being gay is not a disease or an affliction and neither is being transgender.

More and more individuals are becoming, are expressing their true selves for the very first time in their lives and where it’s conflicting for society to accept being gay or lesbian, acceptance of transgender individuals brings a whole new obstacle for society to overcome. It also takes a great deal of courage to share that revelation to your social circle let alone the world. Make no mistake; whether you’re gay or lesbian coming out takes courage no matter what, but there is an additional edge of risk when you are transgender because your transformation can be physically seen thus making those who are not ready or accepting, even more uncomfortable.

Bullying and harassment in the age of social media can have deadly complications. With the wave of suicides that have plagued the community within the past year, we have seen that the subjects of, coming out, being outed or being transgender rare very difficult for some to cope with, especially if they feel that they have nowhere to go and no one to talk to. No one should ever, ever be so afraid of being whom he or she is that they feel the only option they have is to take their own life.

It’s difficult when you don’t have a support system. For a great deal of the community, Pride festivals are the only places where they feel free enough, safe enough to express themselves and find acceptance and support. There are a lot of individuals who don’t frequent the bars or usual hangouts, so the only time they really do “come out” is at Pride. It is an individual choice to come out, unless you have been pressured into it or threatened with “outing.” Some feel that their private life is their private life and it’s no one’s business. To others, it simply does not matter if the world knows.

Ultimately, you have to decide what is right for you and what you can live with. This is a big decision for a lot of people. A support system is very important and can help ease some of the anxiety, but if you feel the need for more support there are outlets for you to talk about your feelings and possibly find strength in others who have faced, are facing, or have made the same decision.

Never let anyone make you feel like a criminal or an outcast for just being who you were born to be. Your life matters! If you have come out and would like to help others who are struggling with this issue, perhaps you could make a video and post it on YouTube or share your story, openly or anonymously, on http://whenicameout.tumblr.com Or if you feel open enough you can share your story with the FLAME Magazine community by giving an answer to one or more of these questions:

When did you realize you were gay/transgender?

Are you out? If not, are you afraid of being outed?

When did you come out?

Was it difficult?

How did you family and friends react?

Have you ever been bullied because you were gay/transgender?

Perhaps your answers to these questions can help someone who is wrestling with this issue to stand up at the next celebration and embrace the world with pride!

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