Come out, come out! (On the importance of growing a pair)

Vania January 31, 2012 7
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Have you read this article from the New Yorker?  (Click for article)

 

If not, you should.

 

I cannot remember the last time I read something that shook me to the core – that left me teary-eyed and so inspired, yet also so thoroughly lost as to what practical actions I could and should take.

 

In excruciatingly painful detail, Ian Parker gives us a window into the lives, private thoughts and conversations of two college boys that were suddenly and incontrovertibly changed.  Dharun Ravi today faces up to 10 years in jail (and I will not even begin to mention the social isolation wrought by his actions), while Tyler Clementi jumped to his death on September 22, 2010 at the age of 18.

 

Rather than focusing on the chilling acts and crue

lty inflicted upon Tyler Clementi (you can read this for yourself in Parker’s article), I want to at least start to answer the question: so what can we do?

 

My answer?  Come out.

 

I know, I know.  I have opened myself up undoubtedly to accusations of oversimplification, of not understanding the complexity and interconnectedness of a myriad of issues, and (the worst, in my opinion) of lacking empathy for those living in situations where coming out simply is not an option.  Before I go on, let me preface this by saying that being a half Korean raised in Idaho (betcha didn’t see that one coming!) in a conservative, Christian household has allowed me the plurality of perspective to acknowledge that not everyone has the same story, and that each person has his/ her own reactions and consequences to face when coming out.  These can range from receiving a loving hug and acceptance to being physically harmed or even murdered.  Let me address this post to those who won’t be putting themselves in harm’s way for coming out.

 

For years, I have, for lack of a better term, “edited” myself, my actions and my words.  While I have been out in the workplace for the past 5 years, I routinely hold meetings where I don’t correct a counterparty from another firm when he/she asks what my “husband” does.  Often, I get shy about holding my wife’s hand in public or giving her a kiss in view of others.  Hell, I still call my wife my “roommate” to the same driver who’s taken me to Heathrow airport a million times over the past 4 years.  (I blame this last one on being Asian: I would hate to offend a 74-year old man!)  To all these seemingly minor but cumulative actions, I say a big, “WTF, Vania?”

 

Here’s the flip side to my “minor” cover-ups: every time I carry on a conversation about my “husband” in a meeting, there is one less person who has been exposed to a gay executive in my industry.  Every time I don’t hold my wife’s hand in public, there is one less person who sees two women in love as normal and common.  Every time I don’t kiss my wife in public, I’ve forever lost a moment where the words, “I love you” just weren’t enough.  And honestly, every time I talk about my “roommate” to my driver, it’s just plain awkward because who am I kidding?  We both know what’s up.

 

In summary, it’s not too late for my 2012 new year’s resolution: I’m growing a pair and I’m going to come out all the time.  Even in uncomfortable situations.

 

I strongly urge you to do the same – for Tyler and for a million other teens who would appreciate your courage and your example.

7 Comments »

  1. Charles Chen January 31, 2012 at 12:42 pm - Reply

    Well said!!!

  2. esther January 31, 2012 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    Nicely written! and so true!

  3. jinju's dad January 31, 2012 at 2:57 pm - Reply

    Most excellent. See, this is exactly what I like about you. Overall…from my perspective….we evolve in mind and actions tend to follow. Your actions are merely following what your mind has been saying for sometime. While I’m as straight as straight can be, I can honestly say that one’s preferences have never concerned me…none of my business firstly and secondly it makes absolutely zero difference in one’s ability to function and contribute. It is a non-issue. As retired military, where gays had to remain very closeted, I came to realize there were folks I worked with, for, and managed…that were gay or bi. Big deal….they still did their jobs and did them well. Now, from what I understand, those days are behind in the military. Things change.

  4. Nathan January 31, 2012 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    Bravo!

  5. jonathan
    jonathan January 31, 2012 at 6:03 pm - Reply

    I am totally inspired to write more just because of this amazing piece! Thank you for sharing yourself and your story. It makes me want to come out over and over to create a better place.

  6. Ellen February 1, 2012 at 12:57 pm - Reply

    So well put! I have had this resolution for a few years now, but I haven’t made as much progress as I would like. I get so disappointed in myself every time I take the easy way out (well, actually in) of not being open about my relationship with Megan. For example, every time I get my haircut the lady asks, “do you have a boyfriend?” and I always just say a simple, “no” instead of “No, I am actually engaged to an amazing woman. We would be married, but California voted to deny us that right.” I rationalize hiding part of myself to the hairdresser because I think she is just making small talk and doesn’t want to get into a political discussion with me. But, I totally agree with you that it is a lost opportunity for the exact kind of casual and open dialog that must take place more often if any change in societal approval/acceptance of gays will ever happen. So, thank you Vania for your eloquent post…I now look forward to my next uncomfortable situation. 🙂

  7. Svetlana February 2, 2012 at 7:27 pm - Reply

    Amazing! Thank u so very much.

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