Do homosexuals have a moral responsibility to come out of the closet?
I have a friend who is in the closet. It’s not much of a closet, since everyone has sort-of-known he’s queer for years. He doesn’t deny it, he just refuses to say anything about it. Every time I bring up the subject, he gets angry and says it’s none of my business.
My feeling is that so long as people are still being beaten for holding hands with someone of the same sex when they walk down the street; so long as we have religious demagogues spreading hate and lies; so long as there’s political repression against homosexuality; so long as the majority of the population still sees nothing wrong with using the word “gay” as an epithet meaning “stupid” — then gay people have a moral and ethical responsibility to announce themselves and show all their friends and family and co-workers that there is a human face to the queer community, and that their hatred and prejudice directly harms people who are dear and close to them.
There was once a time in our culture when homosexuality was treated either as a terrible crime or a disease which had to be “treated.” Unthinkable evil was perpetrated upon people for their sexual orientation. (If you need a practical example, you need look no farther than Alan Turing: one of the greatest minds of our time, the single individual most responsible for defeating the Nazis, the man who cracked the Enigma Code and created the mathematical formulae which allowed the development of radar, that incredible mind, shattered by torture for the “crime” of being homosexual.) It was not until very, very brave men, women, and others stood up and “outed” themselves, stood up and refused to be silent any longer, that queer people everywhere began to gain their dignity and human rights.
The queer community as it exists today owes a tremendous debt to those first brave fighters. Any person reading this who has ever walked into a gay bar openly, without fear of arrest, violence, or social stigma bears a debt to the warriors of Stonewall who stood nose to nose with brutally infuriated police, fought them fearlessly in the streets — and won.
I believe that if you are queer and you choose to hide, you bear a small part of the blame and responsibility every time someone who is brave enough to stand up is harmed. If you’re cowering in the closet, then yours is one of the hands who tied Matthew Shepard to the fence and left him to die.
What do you think?
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