I’m prompted to write today by both a recent personal issue and how it collides with a new post by the Exterminator entitled “Good Advice”. Sorting through my posts here, you’ll see a pattern of responses to things that piss me off. I can officially mark this as my first response of anger to a posting by someone I actually like. In it, he advices a friend to “shut up entirely” at work about being an atheist which frankly infuriates me to no end. What shocked me was in my anger ridden tippety tapping on my keyboard I found myself profoundly moved and faced with a very real gut check of myself which prompted me to make a decision. Alright, well first let me share a personal issue concerning a friend…
Last night my wife and I went to a farewell dinner for some friends moving to the South for a job, a job and a move prompted by the loss of work here. They are a lesbian couple and moving to a city that’s home to a prominent christian yahoo university. The one getting the job went last month and spent a few days as some sort of trial run, meeting who would be her team and discussing a number of things beyond just work related issues since after all, they will be working very closely together and as a new leader, she wants to be both personable as well as foster an open and friendly atmosphere. Well one of the people went off on her god speech, talking about how Jesus is the most important man in her life, that her belief is what gets her out of bed in the morning and fills her with joy throughout the day and blah blah blah Jesus god salvation yada yada for like 5 minutes. “Oh shit” our friend thought since hey, god no likey the gays. So I ask you what would you do in this situation?
Now mind you, you’re out of work and have been for like a month. Here’s a new job, safe and secure with decent pay and the only thing that has come up in your job search. You have a mortgage and other debts that are mounting and there’s some pressure to solve this no job situation. Of course the easy answer would be to “shut up entirely”. If you were an atheist and faced this situation, would this be your response? Just smile and nod and go through the god motions? Well of course being gay and having a partner you share your home, your life and your love with is not so easy to hide as your atheism. My friend decided to go to her future supervisor and out her self and ask, “is this going to be a problem for you or this company?” to which he said, “no”.
Now ok, the situation is different than what Exterminator describes since in my friend’s case she’s in the power position and apparently those above her don’t care what she is (but I will add that her and her partner plan to register for guns and permits to carry). Still, I could not keep quiet about who I am or what I think if pressed ever, be it family get togethers, on the job with co-workers or bosses or today in my present situation with clients. I don’t wave a flag or have a scarlet “A” on all my clothes but I will not pretend to be something I’m not and I will not allow an opposing assertion go unchallenged. If I were to deny my views, ignore challenges and quietly sit still to either not rock the boat or for fear of retaliation then I am no man, I hold no honor, my views are meaningless and I am nothing.
Many religions, especially the christians, very proudly tell the stories of past faithful who, rather than hide their beliefs to save their lives, openly professed their beliefs. Crucifixions, thrown to lions, burning alive, the whole nine yards. All of these things and countless more for what, a belief in a magic man in the sky and his son, who’s also him too, or something, along with this holy spirit thing that looks like a dove but, well, you get the point. Here we are sitting smugly and brandishing our intellects, our logic and reason but when pressed with real danger we collapse like cheap folding chairs? We close our eyes, bow our heads and deny who we are? I have to admit I’m torn up on this issue of being out and proud. I will say it sickens me to hear stories of people denying who they are or what they believe out of fear but then just how committed am I? I have not posted my real name here. Will someone come for me if I do? Will they go after my wife? Will they attack my business? Are my convictions strong enough to require truly outing myself?
I’ve thought about friends of mine who aren’t white who’ve experienced prejudice and indeed violence. I’ve also today thought about friends of mine who are gay who have both made no effort to hide who they are and those who’ve made every effort to hide who they are. I’ve thought about the ramifications of standing up for who you are and what your beliefs are and finally I came back to an incident in my youth where after seeing a car full of guys harass a girl I threw a bottle smashing against the side of the car and ran. Later that night they found me and asked if I was the one who threw the bottle. I was surrounded by 3 guys with one in my face asking and I said, “yes, that was me”. After some pushing and berating the leader clocked me right in the jaw, spinning me around and nearly knocking me on my ass. I felt the warm blood gush and fill my mouth and the pain begin to send shockwaves through me. I righted myself and quickly looked around at the 3, imagining how they would soon do far worse to me. Finally I faced the leader, spat my now full mouth of blood on his shoe and said, “you shouldn’t have harassed that girl”. I realized what kind of man I was that night and what kind of man I want to continue to be and that has prompted me to now publicly out myself and I encourage everyone to do the same. I think there are bigger things than just ourselves, but our responses to those things reflect and define ourselves.