Is it good and wonderful to be able to say, with a carefully timed eye-roll, “so-and-so is gay? And this is news because?” and other comments all designed to indicate how very much you don’t care? How very much YOU You Straight Cis-gendered Person You don’t care? And, I’m beginning to suspect…you man you.
Women’s suffrage, women’s liberation in North America did not come about because those in power–ie, men–decided to recognise the rights of women. It came about because there were women brave enough to come forward, to be public, and to live their beliefs publicly, and through their work, through the sheer numbers of women working together, bringing like-minded men in with them, women won the right to vote, the right to work…and as women became more and more visible in the workplace, the old prejudices slowly fell (mostly) away and it became accepted that women could work as well and as intelligently as any man.
Now, the fight on is for LGBTQ rights. So when a public person comes out and self-identifies as LGBTQ it IS news. Just because Neil Patrick Harris came out and is beloved does not mean that it’s all over–there is no more “need” for anyone to come out. It is STILL news. Because statistics show that the number of LGBTQ-related hate crimes went UP in 2011, and some of those statistics were amongst the highest numbers recorded. Because LGBTQ teenagers are still being bullied and some are committing suicide because of it (still at numbers statistically significantly higher than that for straight-identifying kids). Because every single day, every single hour, every single minute there is someone who has reason to NOT FEEL SAFE because of their sexual identity as LGBTQ.
So why does it still matter that someone comes out? Why someone with an important, highly visible career, who has the respect of millions, who has fanclubs and admirers, why does it matter if that person says, “I’m gay”…and all the haters, all the bigots, all the homophobes have to realise that that public person is STILL the very same person they were the moment before that announcement? Why does it matter to have the world be filled with LGBTQ people so that some kid living in a small town, in a suburb, out in the country, who thinks “There is no one else who feels like I do, who could understand this” can look and think that not only are there people like them…there are SUCCESSFUL HAPPY PEOPLE like them. People who survived.
As Andrew Sullivan wrote today, “The visibility of gay people is one of the core means for our equality.” And in his email response to Andrew, Anderson Cooper wrote, “I’ve also been reminded recently that while as a society we are moving toward greater inclusion and equality for all people, the tide of history only advances when people make themselves fully visible.”
I understand that you are not a bigot, and that you are trying to show how you are completely accepting and that you don’t judge a person by their sexual identity… but, to me, this is becoming the new version of “Skin colour doesn’t matter to me; I don’t see skin colour.” which reeks of being code for “I’m going to pretend you’re not a different colour from me–isn’t that nice of me to treat you like that?” I have always corrected people who say that line to me, and explain that what they mean to say is, “I do not judge a person by the colour of their skin.” Unless you have face blindness or a most unusual form of colour blindness, you see colour, and you see skin colour…and seeing skin colour is not wrong. You are simply seeing something that is…
And to know a person is LGBTQ does not change who that person is. It simply adds a piece to your knowledge of them, and yes, to you it may not be a significant or even interesting piece. And if it truly doesn’t matter to you, then it doesn’t matter to you. But you are far from the only person in this world. In 2012, in the world in which we live today, in a world where there is an American election where one party is utterly against rights for LGBTQ persons, it utterly matters. In a world where kids still go to school in fear of being harassed for being LGBTQ, it matters.
Somewhere, there’s a kid with a tiny spark of hope, with a sense that they are just a little less alone in the world. And somewhere there’s a homophobe who has a tiny moment of uncertainty because that public figure they’ve always admired is LGBTQ…and it makes them question the validity of their hatred.