As anyone with a heart would be, I was devastated by the recent surge of suicides among gay teens. It's been good to see the media covering these stories and having in-depth conversations about the bullying that pushes young adults into despair.
I've also been heartened by the videos made by various public people, from Ke$ha to President Obama, reaching out to kids and reassuring them that "it gets better." As a gay man in my 30s, I like to say: it doesn't just get better, it gets fabulous.
But, there is a very important piece to all of this that needs to be addressed. It's something Harvey Milk stressed over 30 years ago during his activism in San Francisco: all gay people MUST come out. And famous gay people have the biggest responsibility of all to do so.
I know, I know, some of you are going to say that it's a personal matter and that people shouldn't be forced to discuss their "personal lives". But this is the United States in 2010; being gay isn't personal, it's extremely political.
Elie Wiesel once said, "Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented." By staying closeted, we are perpetuating the shame and fear that bullies and bigots want us to feel. We are keeping others from getting to know us, thereby never even having a chance at breaking down the walls of homophobia. But worst of all, we stop ourselves from being the role models that today's bullied young kids desperately need. The world is a much less scary place for a gay teen when he/she has someone to look up to.
I'm sure many famous gays, whether they're actors, anchormen, or politicians, feel that their careers may be on the line if they brave up and come out. But that fear is only enhanced, perpetuated and realized the more we allow ourselves to be bullied and pushed in the closet. Gay men and women can be, and are, leading men and women. They can, and do, hold public office. They are Republicans, they are Democrats, they are church leaders, and school teachers. So, come out for shit's sake! Like Harvey said, "You gotta give 'em hope." Let's give our kids hope. Come out. Now.