Gay Visibility, a Necessity for Change

August 31, 2011 § 9 Comments

Will, Rosie, and Mark. Three people who I had very few real connections with as a child, unknowingly shaped my mindset and prepared me for my future – a future I would quickly and easily embrace instead of one which would end in suicide…

The first, a fictional character on my favorite tv show proved to me, a child devoid of sexual thoughts, that gay men can be successful if albeit only on tv. The second, a talk show host who I didn’t know was gay but looked up to for her comedy and personality, taught me that laughter can inspire love. And the third, the uncle of my cousin (unrelated to me) who I rarely saw, enabled me to believe that gay men can survive in this world.

3 people is all it took to mold my impressionable mind into an accepting and embracing creation. These people were not my best friends or family members or even icons who I followed religiously, my relation with them was loose and not seismically life altering in the least. Or so I thought. For when I realized I was gay, I had no qualms with my sexuality. I prayed not for forgiveness, not for a new sexuality, but for guidance on my recently apparent path. I was still a teen and I was still happy. To think that only 3 people, along with some positivity, could get me to such a powerful place… A place seemingly nonexistent for so many other teens currently struggling with their sexuality is unimaginable. It’s seemingly too simple… and the best part is, in reality, it can be!

This past summer I spent multiple weeks finding my center while teaching and helping staff two camps. I led discussions, taught lessons on leadership, and helped energize our campers with bizarre cheers which I fell in love with three years prior while first attending camp. But at that time there were no out gay staffers at either of my camps. There were no visible signs that gay guys could succeed within a leadership camp or a service based camp just like there are few signs that support gay success in sports even today! While the number of out athletes increases, the majority are still closeted and what does that say to our youth?

Certainly nothing supportive for as a camper I was consistently disappointed with one thing and one thing only – the lack of gay role models. Will, Rosie, and Mark were highly visible figures in my life though I had few personal ties to them. Each was successful in his/her own right as a lawyer, a talkshow host, and as an adult who survived a turbulent childhood. Each I respected as a person, incognizant of sexuality. Yet they were just being them, striving for greatness and attempting to better there lives without any thought of myself. Or perhaps with much more thought than I could ever give them credit for.

I feel to change the world we need to be aware of the impact that we have. We all are role models in one way or another, we all have influence and can start a movement or – just as easily, tare one down. We should grow in respect to this responsibility, this ethical and moral duty to provide ourselves as the best role models for society as we can be; and for me that implies being an openly gay athlete, service member, and leader.

Hence why I choose to be open about who I am now. While it’s beneficial for anyone willing to come out, it is essential for those in visible positions or roles of leadership to come out when they’re ready and not shy away from conflict. It is when we are least comfortable that we grow as people and thus can enable others to grow as well. Through being visible components of a successful society we present ourselves and the gay community as people of limitless potential – not people oppressed by the “homophobic hand of God,” a hand which – man not be as homophobic as some may think. But that’s a topic for another time.

So I did it. I was an openly gay camp staffer who met a collection of almost 300 of the greatest teens you could ever find. To each of them I was known first by who I am, a positivity-centric staffer who’s favorite cheer involves shimmying and fist pumping in a circle, and eventually as a caring and funny guy who happens to be gay. While I can not say for certain if I helped change anyone’s opinion of the lgbtq community, I know that had I seen me this past Summer as a camper – I would have known that no minority status would limit my potential within service work or as a leader.

What are your thoughts on visibility within the gay community? Post your comments below!
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§ 9 Responses to Gay Visibility, a Necessity for Change

  • Very powerful and difficult post to read. Obviously, I wholly believe that with increased and greater visibility it will make it increasingly difficult to marginalize us (the LGBT community) and thus more difficult to internalize homophobia and self-loathing. The more role-models we have, the more hope we inspire.

    • Craig says:

      I hope it wasn’t too difficult Michael and thank you for your comment! You summed it up very well, “the more role-models we have, the more hope we inspire.” I’ll be sure to remember that phrase in the future.

  • Ciao Bello!
    Caro Craig! (Dear Craig)
    Merely the expression of your gratitude for the these “Tangible” influences upon your life, and the formation of your character as an “Out” affirming, and very committed young gay man, speaks volumes(Cliche Perhaps) to the heart of Bobby Griffiths’ (Prayers for Bobby) old lover/boyfriend “Blaine” here, who is enormously proud of you and an entire generation of young folks like you! Your generation of gay people “Bello” along with scores of straight friends and allies, are going to effect change the likes of which I and mine could only dream of! The vitriol at present being hurled at gay people, is I believe in reaction to fact that they are losing and losing big all around! Their demonizing and cold hearted views are being marginalized into a minority and a “Fringe” at that, and they do not like how it feels! Boo Hoo! Again you make me so darn proud!
    Blaine

    • Craig says:

      Thanks Blaine for the continued support and kind words! I do believe that times will be changing soon and that even those whose hearts are hardened to our cause will be softened one day by our actions or there children’s will saved from similar calloused behavior

  • Jackson says:

    Given that there were 300 teens there, I’m sure there was at least one of them who appreciated what you were doing, even if he or she never showed it or told you.

    • Craig says:

      Hey Jackson, thanks for the comment! And I sure hope so, but regardless of whether or not they showed it I’m happy to continue being a visible member of the lgbtq community once more next summer!

  • JC says:

    Glad you had a good summer!

    You wrote “…it is essential for those in visible positions or roles of leadership to come out when they’re ready and not shy away from conflict. It is when we are least comfortable that we grow as people and thus can enable others to grow as well. Through being visible components of a successful society we present ourselves and the gay community as people of limitless potential.” I would like to add that each of us in leadership roles have different spheres of influence and the degree to which society will accept our ability to influence that sphere varies accordingly.

    For instance, we both are in education, you as a college student, me as a high school coach. What is ok for me to share as a leader are universal themes such as accepting gays within our team, announce that bullying because of another persons sexuality is not ok, I can create a safe zone, and I can teach “that’s so gay” is not appropriate language. What I can’t do is discuss what are perceived as political or religious issues, such as gay marriage or gay adoption. In your sphere as a camp counselor, our obligations and what’s acceptable are the same, however in your sphere as a student/campus leader you can expand the universal themes to include the political issues and still have it accected as appropriate behaviour. Would I be willing to share my personal thoughts on those non-universal themes with team members? Of course, but not as part of our team activities and only if asked.

    Hope that made sense. I had a tough time trying to share my thought process on this one. I guess in a nutshell, we need to know our audience and tailor our leadership roles accordingly by recognizing there’s a time and place for each lgbt issue.

    Jeff

    • Craig says:

      Oh of course JC! Speaking to one’s audience is essential to getting one’s point across and building a proactive community – though I think what you are doing (devoid of conversations on political issues) will also help move those affected towards acceptance and therefor support on the aforementioned political issues. One step in lgbtq acceptance is also a step towards pro-equality legislature though how large a step may differ depending on the context and situation.

      Best of luck to your team this upcoming season, I look forward to hearing more about your runners’ successes!

  • Mike says:

    Hey Craig! This is really a great post. From one gay teen to another, I cannot begin to describe how impressed I am of your successes! I can tell that you are destined to change the world. I have to agree with you on the need for gay visibility. Coming of age, I had a few inspirational “role models”, Anderson Cooper (much like your Rosie, I never knew about his sexuality) and, also Will from Will & Grace, for the same reasons.

    I do my best to believe that by living life in the open, we are creating a healthier climate for others. I live thinking that there could/is someone around me that needs to see that they can be successful, so I try to be that person. I think in ways, we both personify the cliched “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. Best of luck at school!

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