When Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts came out on Facebook last Sunday, the World Wide Web (and then some) blew up with chatter about her brave and bold decision to let her rainbow flag fly high.
The overwhelmingly positive feedback (including First Lady Michelle Obama's supportive Tweet) sheds light on how far we've come as a country. It's been an incredible year for LGBT visibility; from marriage recognition to rights for trans students and much more. Plus, throngs of celebrities threw open the closet doors this year, including some pretty high profile names and in some of the most traditionally homophobic arenas like professional sports.
The fact that we're living in a country, though, where a closet still exists, is testament to how many miles we have to go before we can say we've achieved true equality. Yes, we're living in a United States where the face of the most popular daytime soccer mom talk show is an out and proud lesbian -- and one who's not femme at that -- but the current landscape, including how Robin chose to come out, leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to full acceptance of LGBT identities.
For instance, would the response to Robin's coming out have been more mixed if she hadn't earned major empathy points for surviving a life-threatening illness? A controversial question to ask, but not an unfair one given that this trending news story follows closely on the heels of a homophobic hillbilly who quacked on national television and gets to keep his cable spot. The gains we've made this year have been huge, but they've been met with moment after moment of hate and backlash and continued ignorance -- acts of violence and hate, states ignoring Federal court rulings, couples denied cakes, and more. We deserve our cake and we deserve to eat it too!
Robin had a clever coming out strategy. She didn't clear her throat with trepidation and make the announcement on-air in a serious tone. She didn't even say the word "lesbian." Robin simply posted a holiday-themed message on her Facebook page that just happened to mention her decade-long partner, who just happens to be female. Make no mistake -- from a communications standpoint it was a well-thought out plan with a full understanding of how it might play out, but in an ideal world all Robins everywhere could post holiday messages that call out their loved ones of all genders and be met with "likes," not headlines. In the wake of recent celebrity outings like Anderson Cooper, Jodie Foster and Jason Collins, Robin's post was carefully crafted in the place in which we currently exist, one of progress-but-not-equality. It's proof that we've come a long way but we're not there yet.
The day when the next Robin or Anderson or Jodie can mention in passing their same-sex partner and it doesn't make headlines is the day we've truly turned a corner. It's no longer true that the majority of celebrities' closets are collecting dust from so many years with the door closed, but we still have some major home renovations before we can trade in the closet for a snazzy shoe rack that catches the glint of sunlight in a room with the shades wide open.