I didn't realize it until this morning, but today is National Coming Out Day! So, Happy Coming Out Day to all my GLBT friends and loved ones!
In case it wasn't already obvious, I support my friends and loved ones of all sexual orientations, gender identities, ages, races, shapes, sizes, religious persuasions, national origins, handedness, eye colors, etc. But I figured that today would be a good day to come out explicitly as a GLBT ally.
Half of my first family, excluding myself, is gay. My situation is somewhat unique, in that one of my parents is gay, and before she figured that one out, she spent more than 35 years married to my dad and had three wonderful daughters. I'm glad that she eventually figured it out and found the woman of her dreams. Overall, we're all much happier now that we've adjusted to our new-found places, although getting there was rather traumatic.
So I'm really glad that my sister was able, whether through simple self-awareness or because society is much more tolerant now, to find the woman of her dreams without having to go through the unhappiness of being with the wrong person for two-thirds of her life!
There are other GLBT people outside of my family whose existence has impacted me in such a positive way that I can't even imagine life without them! This world would be a lonely place without them. So I thought I'd give a brief tribute to two of them, going in chronological order.
The first was a friend of my older sister's… let's call him Maury, for the sake of argument ;)
Maury was two years ahead of me in school. He went to the same high school as Rachel, which was a different school from the one I went to, but he was also in the youth orchestra with me and Rachel. He came over to our house fairly often when Rachel was a senior. He had outstanding taste in music, I remember, introducing us to Poulenc, and most importantly, me to opera. He had the CDs of Carmen, sung by Maria Callas, and Carmen ended up being something I grew quite fond of. After Rachel graduated and went on to college, for some reason he still liked the rest of the family enough to come and hang out at our house. I went to a play and maybe a couple of concerts with him his senior year of high school. Then he went off to college, although he would still stop by during breaks. But I don't think I've seen him in over ten years, although Rachel still keeps up with him somewhat.
Maury really opened me up to some music I never would have heard of, had it not been for him, and to opera, which was not well-liked in my first family for some reason. But I have to admit, Jeff and I own three CD sets of complete operas: Carmen (with Callas), Don Giovanni (with Samuel Ramey), and L'Elisir d'Amore (with Pavarotti). Maury would probably think this is insufficient, and I would agree with him, except that CD sets of operas are expensive! So, Maury, if you're reading, I would gladly take donations of operas! :)
The second GLBT person I'm going to write about was not a close friend. It was somebody whom I knew in Illinois. This person was a man when we first met, and transitioned into a woman by about a year before I left.
I met "Dan" early in my graduate career. He was a staff member at the university. He was short, and sleight of build, with glasses, kind of a squeaky voice, and a long blond ponytail. As we interacted I had no idea that he felt that there was a mismatch between his body and his mental image of himself.
I didn't see him much for several years, so I had no idea that he was doing hormone replacement or anything. We interacted via computer, on newsgroups, so I never saw any changes. As the time came closer, he started hinting on the newsgroups about a big change that was happening to him, and I soon figured out that he was about to become a she.
Some religiously conservative people on the newsgroups were less than charitable in their reactions. They called Dan a sick person with a mental illness, condemned him to hell, and even threatened him. But Dan prevailed and became "Cherise," getting an official name change, a new driver's license and even a new user ID from the university. (The new user ID was probably the hardest one of those to obtain. They never did it for women who changed their names when they got married, so I don't know how she did it, quite honestly!)
I visited her in the same old office I'd been to before. It was a little strange to call this person I knew Cherise instead of Dan, but really it was not any stranger than calling women I've known my whole life by their new married name, or calling a friend of mine who changed her entire name by that new name. This change of identity didn't threaten my ideas of gender roles or anything, seeing as I don't really conform to gender roles myself. And I noticed that Cherise had better hair than I did, so I asked her for her secret. We remained friends until I left. I tried to see her when I was back in Illinois in August, but she was out of the office when I stopped by.
I admire Cherise for her ability to be herself, no matter what others said. Her parents were pretty displeased at their son becoming a woman, and I'm not sure what kind of relationship they have today. Her courage inspires me to be true to myself, and I'm glad that I know her. If she can face down that kind of opposition, then I can face anything that life gives me!
Anyhow, I'm grateful for what the people I've met of all sexual orientations and gender identities have shared with me. Happy Coming Out Day!