So, are you out?
Does that question make any of you uncomfortable? Probably a few, since some of you are a bit homophobic, or maybe defensive of your sexuality for some reason. I'm not here to judge that. But when the vast majority of Americans hear that someone is "coming out," they think that someone is letting the world know that they're gay.
That's not always the case, of course,. It isn't always a sexual thing, either. In fact, coming out as a homosexual is really just the tip of the iceburg. There's all kinds of coming out! The kind we tend to focus on here is coming out as an Atheist, Agnostic, Freethinker or Secular Humanist. Off the top of my head, here are a few examples.
Trekkies - Oh yeah, you knew that was tops on this list. I'm an out Trekkie, just not the stereotypical uber-Trekkies you think of when you hear the term used. Hellz yeah I loves me some Star Trek! And there are literally tens of millions of people like me who are fans in some form or another of it. But a lot of people also ridicule the Trekkie, based on the extreme stereotype that some fans have managed to get associated with the name. It's fear of that rebuke that still keeps some Trekkies closeted, and often makes it tough for them to come out.
Furries - Every culture has a dark side, although I'm not quite sure where the Furverts fit in. I mention them because they're a very small niche culture that's often shunned, even by the somewhat-larger niche culture they tend to co-exist with. Obviously, coming out as a Furvert is on par with coming out gay, and might even be harder, given the peculiarity of the whole thing.
Potheads - Let's face it, folks: Pot is what it is, and its out there. It's legality is what keeps people in the closet, obviously, but some folks are taking a stand of some sort. Al Gore admitted during his 2000 Presidential run that he had, indeed, smoked pot, and that no one held a gun to his head. Tommy Chong? Duh. Woody Harrelson, same difference. The members of 311, pretty much any solo or group rapper out there, I can go on for days. But now Medical Marijuana is legal in some states, and some states are even decriminalizing possession and making it a summary offense instead of a major crime. Will this help? We'll see.
Male Soap Opera Fans - You know you're out there, guys. And we know why you're quiet. But we won't question your masculinity just because you like daytime serials. I can sympathize on at least one level: The stories are probably better than anything Vince McMahon has put on TV in the last 10 years. This group can also include guys who like Chick Flicks, Oprah, Lifetime, or novels with a Fabio clone on the cover. Heh heh heh. Hey Butt-head: Man-din-go! Heh heh heh...
Mainstream Religions Themselves - Depending on what part of the world you live in, people might seriously be afraid of admitting to what denomination they adhere. In some places, being Muslim isn't enough: you have to be Shia or Sunni or whatever. Some instances can even get you killed in some crazy holy scrap. Yeah, it can be that bad, even for the Mainstream religions.
And then there's us - Atheists. While America may not an 'officially' Christian nation, it is most certainly dominated by Christianity as a whole per capita. Fully 90% or more Americans probably claim the carpenter from Nazareth as their personal savior through one denomination or another, and probably 80% of those have a tendency to look down on us. To the individual Secularist, it can seem like overwhelming odds: The community at large, members of their own family, other loved ones, all some form of Christian, and all with the desire to share it.
To say words like "I don't believe" takes more courage than they can seem to muster. Coming out as an Atheist means condemnation from those that, up until you came out, once smiled and welcomed you into their lives. It means distrust simply because you don't believe in any God, let alone theirs. It means discrimination for that same reason alone. It means dirty looks, whispers behind upheld hands, and even a measure of fear of what you are, simply because you're different.
Yeah, coming out as a Secularist can be a pretty scary thing. It will mean fights with family and friends sometimes, and it will mean a whole bunch of confusion as to why they can't accept you for how you are now, even though they accepted you as you were for all these past years.
But it doesn't mean you're alone. Coming out can be like sending up a flare. It can be like standing on the deck of a carrier signaling an incoming fighter pilot. It can be like standing at the highest point available to you and saying "Hey! I'm here!"
And you know what? Someone else will see that signal. Someone else - someone who thinks very similarly to you - will hear you shouting, see you waving flags, and they will reach out and help pull you out of the fog.
Because that's how we roll. With us, it's about Humanity, and what we can do to help it along.
Remember: Ubi dubium ibi libertas - Where there is doubt, there is freedom.
And more importantly, there are friends waiting there for you, too...
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
So, are you out?