What Have You Done to Feel Proud Today?

The World According to Joan - August 2012Written by Joan Stevenson—

It’s summertime in the Motor City and that means PRIDE! Just off the heels of the [Motor City] Pride celebration in Hart Plaza, were Ferndale Pride and Hotter Than July, the Midwest’s oldest black LGBT 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.

With the wave of suicides that have plagued the community within the past year, we have seen that the subject of coming out or being outed is 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 who they are that they feel the only option they have is to take their own life.

For a great deal of the community, Pride festivals are the only places where they feel free enough to express themselves. 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 for just being who you were born to be.  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 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?

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?

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!

Joan Stevenson is an entertainer in the metro Detroit area. Find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @Lady_J_8 she also has a blog on tumblr. http://houseofwonderandchaos.tumblr.com/ 

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