There are LGBT people everywhere. If society weren't so judgmental, you'd see many more of us. Granted, we wouldn't be a majority, but we'd be -- what do they say? -- about 10 percent of the population.
I am so happy to see this day when more and more celebrities, sports stars, politicians, military personnel, police officers, and many, many others are coming out of the closet and allowing themselves to be who they naturally are.
The media makes it out like we want a cotillion thrown in our honor for public disclosure, when all most of want is acceptance.
All of us who have come out publicly have had our own personal journey toward self-acceptance, with people close to us saying, "Don't do it," "It will ruin your career," and, "Why do people have to know?" along the way.
My journey was probably not too different from others, but I was that suicidal teen growing up! I was that kid who felt that the world would be a better place without me!
When I contracted HIV, I was that young man listening to people, strangers, saying, "Well, it is killing the right people," and, "This is God's punishment for their lifestyle." I felt dirty, tainted. Who would touch me? Who could love me?
With all the secrets, I felt alone, isolated, like I was living on an island with barely a phone for communication with the outside world, which I did not feel a part of anyway.
My journey included a play, Paul Rudnick's Jeffrey, where I played a chorus boy with an eighth-grade education who lives in a penthouse apartment, takes taxis everywhere, and doesn't pay rent. He dies, but before that happens he delivers a poignant message to the protagonist, Jeffrey: "Hate AIDS, not life!"
I came out in order to offer a hand to that young teen who might be struggling with his or her sexual identity and contemplating suicide. I came out to help tell people that HIV is a virus and not a judgment from God. If it were, then being straight in Africa must be a sin! God has nothing to do with it, but maybe we are still to learn a lesson of compassion and acceptance from it.
We generally start coming out where we feel safe. Then we open our circle to share with others who we really are. Once we have support (often after learning who our true friends are), we might have the courage to come out to the public. The truth shall set you free, right?
I don't think public figures come out for attention, as the media makes it out, but so that some LGBT kid in the Bible Belt who may be contemplating ending his or her life has hope! They too can be an actor or actress! They too can be an Olympian! They too can be anything they want to be.
To every public figure who's come out of the closet: Thank you for giving these children examples of possibilities that they can realize for themselves!
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