coming out

Reading Michael Bronski’s A Queer History of the United States, I discovered the origins of the phrase “coming out.”  When I first came to San Francisco, your coming out story was the way you started a conversation with strangers, and we were all strangers.  In 1969, Carl Whitman, who lived in San Francisco, wrote the Huron Statement, a gay manifesto, that instructed gay men to “free ourselves; come out; initiate self-defense and political activity; initiate counter community institutions”.  Up until that time, men “came into” the homosexual world, like you slid into it, a passive act. He changed a few words and made a radical statement.  Whitman said gay men should talk about it with everyone and be gentle.  He also said, “We’ve been playing an act for a long time, so we’re consummate actors. Now we can begin to be, and it’ll be a good show!”  Harvey Milk echoed those sentiments when he said, “You must come out.”

Think how powerful those words were and how they shaped our lives.


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One Response to coming out

  1. William February 10, 2013 at 1:40 am #

    A very interesting point of view. I’m a passive student of history, and I can see where, in the early part of the 20th century, it would seem most gay men “Came into” being gay. As if it were a choice. But as we always knew, it is NOT a choice. “Coming out” is such an important step in a gay man’s life.
    Sometimes it never truely happens. I know men who are married and will NEVER “come out”. On the other hand, I know a straight couple who have a 12 year old grand-son who has “come out” AND wants to be a girl !!! The grand parents support him in his identification, His mother also supports him, but his parents have recently seperated, due to the child’s father not “understanding” his Son.
    All GLBT (until recently, or at least from “our” generation) were raised in hetrosexual house holds… for the most part we only have “straight” family as our examples to live by.
    When we finally come to the realization of who we are and what we are, we have to “start over” again in a new world of exploration and discovery, usually right around the time of puberty and sexual awaken-ing. Just like our straight brothers, sisters, cousins, friends…. We too are poised on the threshold of a whole new world. Un-fortuntaly for many of our GLBT Brethren, there is not a support system in place to help us through the process.
    For example… when your straight brother brings home his new girlfriend, usually the family embraces her and welcomes the young couple. On the other hand, your gay brother brings home his new boyfriend, and no one is preparred to handel it the same as they would if it where the boy/girl relationship. Where is the support for the gay couple?
    I know times have changed, but there is still a long way to go.
    I was very fortunate in having a family, and extended family who embraced me and the boys I had young relationships with… and then when I found the man I would spend the rest of my life with, my entire family welcomed us with enthusiasm and warmth.
    Chuck, To bring this around to what you had to say about coming out and the History you mentioned….
    YES…. I agree, we have been the consumate “actors” for far too long, and I’m happy to see younger and younger GLBT youth being open and honest to themselves and the other people in their lives.
    There is still a long way to go…..

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