Today is International Coming Out today, and here below Gary McFegan shares his reflections on progress that the Western world has made in equal rights and the challenges that there still are. We do have a story in the UK of progress over the last century, moving from the appalling criminalization now to ‘equal marriage’ and an Equality Act which ensures that no one should face discrimination because they are gay but rights need to be maintained and cherished or they can be lost.
Thank you Gary, for writing such a brilliant, thought provoking blog.
Here it is:
Given the advances in gay rights, human rights in general and the modernising of an old fashioned society, one could be forgiven for thinking that the act of coming out as gay is not as big deal as it use to be?
Many would say that if you think that you are wrong! The fact that being homosexual is now more normalised than it ever was (in most westernised countries in any case) does not make it any more traumatic, gut wrenching, and often quite soul destroying to have to buck the norm and announce to the world that you don’t fit the modern stereotype of youth today.
You see, for many people coming out today, it is not world opinion that worries them, it is more about the reaction of immediate family and friends that occupies the minds of many.
Two words strike fear into the hearts of those agonising with telling someone about their sexuality – social media. For some social media is a tool to vent their feelings and get support from accruing vast numbers of ‘likes’, for others it’s a platform to be bullied, tortured and humiliated beyond belief. All because Mother Nature and her decision on your genetic make up made you want to love and be loved by someone of the same sex.
For me, occasionally Hollywood gets it right (yes really) when it makes movies like Love Simon to try to tell a story about coming out. With a cute (but not too six packed) male lead, set in a fluffy American home that is not without its short comings, Love Simon attempts to show how terrifying it can be to come out.
My favourite scene is where some of the supporting cast announces to their parents that they are…. Straight! Amusement aside, it does raise a serious question. Why should we have to announce we are gay when if you are straight there is no requirement to come out?
I don’t have any answers to that question except to say that, over the last few years, if you identify as Gay you can look at society and not feel quite so isolated. There are gay people all over TV, cinema, social media and the press, our entertainment has the gay quota represented, all our paper work has the obligatory but often optional statement on your sexuality. All of this would make your great grandparents turn in their graves, but your grandparents would be tolerant of the new way of things and your parents (hopefully) fully supportive of what ever sexuality their child turns out to be.
As lovely and positive as things seem, coming out still faces some challenges and one of them is Donald Trump, (yes really). Regardless of his own opinion, that man lets others of a more extreme nature actually run the show and reduce and abate gay rights and reinstate the employment laws in America that allowed employers to discriminate against gay people.
Taking more of a deep dive into the subject of coming out, it remains to be seen if the new BBC drama Butterfly goes down well. It covers the even more difficult, taboo, social outcast subject of a young male child who wants to identify as a girl.
Not only does he want to wear a dress and make up but also he will (at some point) want surgical procedures to alter his sexuality.
Now that is enough to make grandma spit out her dentures.