On coming out

Every year, that familiar holiday, National Coming Out Day, seems to come earlier and earlier.  Seems like I was just taking down my Gay Pride Month banners and poppers and it’s already time to put up the Coming Out tree, bedecked with supportive photos of all the people I still haven’t told.  Yes, there certainly is something special about October 11th.

Unlike other people I could mention, I didn’t have a big problem with “coming out.”  It was pretty easy for me at 17, when I decided to do it under relatively trauma-free circumstances.  I understand the kids these days have it even easier than I did, taking guys to their senior prom and whatnot.  At least in my part of the world, we have overcome, and any uneasy don’t-ask-don’t-tell truces I may be living with are of my own making.

At Capital this year, the gay law students group BiGLaw decided to support those who maybe didn’t have it so easy, by trying to commemorate Coming Out Day (which, despite my snideness, is a real day that I remember each year).  They didn’t organize any actual event that I know about, but they did put up a few signs reminding people when it was and what it meant to those who can’t be open about themselves and to those who are.  I thought it was pretty mild stuff.

The Christian Legal Society, however, decided to organize a presentation from someone at a group called “Mission: America, who was going to come and talk about her experiences as an advocate for preserving traditional families.”  I guess that didn’t pan out, and so they decided to hold, instead, a prayer meeting “for those who have come out and/or are considering coming out and/or are struggling with homosexual attraction.”  This was to be held on Coming Out Day at eight o’clock in the morning.  It was announced in an e-mail to all students.

The e-mail prompted a lot of rumbling among my near-universally straight fellow law students.  “How dare they conduct their little ‘hate-in,'” one bleated.  Somebody else said they should not be allowed to organize events that appear to directly oppose other groups at the school.  In reference to the baleful effects of homosexual attraction, another person suggested we tell the Christian Legal Society, “Thank God we’re not attracted to you!”

This event prompted me to do some thinking.  As an ardent defender of our liberal Constitution and civil rights, I felt no desire to try to stop the meeting or to complain to the administration.  It would have been hypocritical to tell anyone not to express their beliefs, particularly on the very day that is intended to promote tolerance and openness about others.  But I was rather shocked that a “counter-protest” would be organized in response to — well, not even an actual event.  Somebody puts up a few signs saying “it’s OK to be gay,” and the reaction is to arrange a prayer group reminding us that some people think it’s not?

The delicious possibilities for civil retribution began swimming through my head.  I would go to the meeting wearing nothing but a tiara and a Speedo.  I would solemnly stand outside with a sign reading, “No prayer please, we’re gay.”  Or: “Touched by an angel; touched by a priest.”  Or, while being asked to pray for those literally damned homosexuals, I would suggest that we pray for “the ignorant, the intolerant, and those who maliciously spread misinformation and lies, trading on the backs of the Oppressed just to advance their own political agendas.”

But, sadly for you, dear Reader, I did none of these things and decided simply to attend.

May I say, now having attended a meeting of each group, neither BiGLaw nor the Christian Legal Society exactly commands hordes of zealous followers.  The CLS meeting was attended by, er, just the CLS President, me, and my friend.  In other words, we outnumbered them by an exact ratio of 2-to-1.  Where were the queens?  (Did you know it is solid dark at 7am???  I didn’t!  That has to have had something to do with it.)

So Sondra and I had a pretty civil conversation with the assembled representative and member of the Christian Society.  The CLS seemed unanimously glad to see us, and it was truly eager to explain that it did not intend to convey a message of disapproval or dislike for gay people: “not at all, not, not, not at all.”  It just happened to organize a prayer meeting on the same day as Coming Out Day to, you know, let gay people know that it disagreed with Their Lifestyle.

Ah yes.  When you hear the dreaded lifestyle argument, you know you are in for a hard ride.  To Joy’s credit, she was extremely considerate and polite and I do believe she is sincere.  That is to say, she sincerely believes that the gay people of this world are wrong, and she is sincere about telling us.  Her position is that if someone knows the truth, shouldn’t that person try to convince others of the truth?

We suggested that this would be akin to organizing counter-protests on Martin Luther King Day, or Rosh Hashana.  After all, if Christianity is superior to Judaism, why not attempt to convert Jews on one of the holy days?  (“Maybe we should do that,” the CLS, I’m sure, jokingly mused.)

I advanced the idea that, you know, it’s kind of a civil society we’re living in, and there should be room for all viewpoints, and no matter what your religious beliefs happen to be, you should respect the differences of others.  On this point, the CLS was philosophical.  I know that the Christians at Capital, like all good people, do believe in civil rights and freedoms for everyone.  But, we tried to stress, the prayer meeting’s intent appeared to be less than truly respectful of everyone.  Rather than trying to convert us on our day, we suggested, maybe they could hold off until next week, or something.  When Joy asked that there simply not be Coming Out Day (presumably, she meant, at CULS), because it has nothing to do with law school, I had to disagree: coming out has always been tinged with politics, and it always will be as long as people in our society politicize the issue.  Besides, wasn’t it the Christian Legal Society that organized the gay marriage “debate” against the CULS Democrats last year?

At the end of the day, I don’t feel like much changed, but people’s minds are made up and convictions are deeply held.  And I genuinely understand, and heartily disagree, with some of them.  I’m glad I attended, and I’m particularly glad that the rumored brawl between Christians and rugby-playing lesbians did not break out — particularly not at 8am.  It’s obvious to me that law school, like the church, is one of the leading institutions concerned with issues of justice and fairness, so I’m glad that there are busybody Christians and remonstrative straight supporters and sleepy gays on all sides of this issue.  Chalk one up for Liberty.

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12 Responses

  1. David Lynch says:

    Huzzah, Bill.

  2. David Lynch says:

    PS, your comment interface is not completely Deer Park Alpha 2 friendly. Less philosophy, more coding.

  3. Jackie Earl Haley says:

    I was wondering how the day would go considering the combination of “Coming Out Day” with “A Conveniently Scheduled Prayer for Coming Out Day.” Glad to read that you seemed to go into the CLS with an open mind for discussion….

  4. Bill Cash says:

    Well, thanks so much, “Jackie.”

  5. Marcus says:

    Part of me wishes you had come in Speedos, but most of me likes the way you did it. And by the way, it’s broad daylight at 7 AM in the Big Apple–That’s what you get for living on the western fringe of the eastern time zone.

    On September 11, a group of New York Muslims held an open house to say that Islam does not support terrorism. An important message, but somewhat crass on that particular day.

    Likewise with the Christians on Coming Out Day. In this case, it’s not even an important message. But the CLU certainly does have the right to protest the homosexual “lifestyle.” They can do it on any day they choose, but should have chosen another day.

  6. Anne Gilliland says:

    I appreciate what you and Sondra did. When I got the email, I was initially pretty angry, but then I began thinking about how that wasn’t a useful or even rational response. In the end, I just deleted the email and sighed. FWIW, there are many Christians–and I bet some of them attend CULS–who don’t agree with the CLS’s position on this issue.

  7. JUSTME says:

    I had to reply to statement that for you “coming at out 17 was relativly easy.” I remember that day as well, as the day before you had taken a long drive – on a very snowy day, and been gone for hours, maybe overnight without calling in, and I wondered if you were ever coming home. I had pictured you dead in snow bank or frozen somewhere, and was glad to see you home, but mad that you had never taken time to call me.

    I also remember you saying, “Mom I need to talk to you about something important. But with my younger brother, and the divorce, and the windows and so forth you have been breaking out at dads house, and my other brother setting the house on fire and doing drugs, and the dog biting the neighbor kid, well gosh golla darn there never seems to be a good time.”

    You didnt say it in those exact words, but things had certainly not been the Ozzie and Harriett Household on Annabelle Court for some time.

    I remember when you were in high school, you had exactly what- one date? The prom?

    I guess that should have been a clue. But you were always different, always exceptional, and lets face it, always just a little nerdy in high school. After all you were always younger than anyone else at the school having skipped kindergarten.

    I remember too, a Thanksgiving dinner, when you arrive and said, “Hi Mom, I’m here for Thanksgiving with another new boy friend”

    I also remember you riding in a car with one of my secretarys who looked over and saw a guy riding a Harley Motorcycle. She said I would like one of those, meaning the motorcycle, and you said something like, Okay Ill take the driver!”

    Well I dont know what other fellows did or didnt do on “Coming out day” but once again you choose to do something different and exceptional.

    I remember your dad always wanted your younger brother who was at the time very white and very blond to learn the “I have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King, and to be at the King Center on MLKJ day and receit it from memory, just to see it the crowd would accept a white kid doing that on “their day.”

    You know when you were little I always encouraged you to do anything you could do. Of course anything musical, involving dance or sports were out because.. well sorry you got my genetics in those areas!

    Maybe some day my son will be the first openly Gay Supreme Court Justice, or maybe the first openly Gay president! Then maybe you could invite me to the White House for Thanksgiving with you one of those boyfriends.

    All I know is I wouldnt trade or change you for the world, and shame on those parents who have children who have to keep quiet for fear their parents wont love them, or finance them, or call them or see them.

    When you sign on for a parent there are no instruction manuals for either the parent or the child. We both had to learn as we grew up together.

    Sorry this got so serious but who knows, maybe some of your readers will make a choice this Thanksgiving to tell their parents. To be who they are, and those parents will be just as proud as I am of their sons and daughters.

    Also, when will the gay community finally have the right holiday.. “The Gee thanks Mom Holiday” you all love to dress up and have parties, are there any holidays not taken by the Jews, Gays, Islamics, Christians and so forth?

    Signed justme

  8. Bill Cash says:

    In fairness to myself, I don’t exactly remember everything here the same way as you!  And I did have a number of dates with that horrible Mormon girl.

  9. Johnny Two Bags says:

    I can’t believe that you skipped Kindergarten..

  10. Jason says:

    Hey Bill,

    The face off between the Dems and the CLS was my brainchild last year. I only received about 400 emails from the CLS in regards to the format of the event, it was fun. I think that Joy is really sincere in her beliefs, and a nice person generally, but, she is someone who I will never like…oh well…

    I think she has lived in abox at the bottom of a well most of her life…

    I enjoyed seeing her sit next to the BIGLAW display part of the day on coming out day…

    I enjoyed the column though as it was rec’d by another student…especially the part about only three ppl showed up…I volunteered to picket in front of her house that day…

  11. Claire C. says:

    What lovely, well-reasoned thoughts. I would expect nothing less.

  12. Jen Schule says:


    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. I agree with you completely, and I consider myself a Christian. However, I pride myself more on the “tolerance” and “loving one another” part of Christianity, than on condemning others or trying to change people. I’m glad you went to the meeting … you represented a lot of other students’ feelings well, including other Christians.

    Jen Schule