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.