This year marks the 27th National Coming Out Day, a commemoration of the one-year anniversay of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. When Jon worked at The Dallas Morning News, he published an annual, award-winning special section highlighting the lives of LGBT people, as well as their contributions to business, sports, entertainment and civic life. Through the years, he increasingly focused on the important role played by supportive straight allies in the quest for equal treatment under the law. As editor, Jon had the opportunity to interview dozens of high-profile celebrities and activists, including former US Marine Eric Alva, comedienne Rosie O’Donnell, actress Jane Lynch, civil rights leader Julian Bond, actor George Takai and many more. Their message was always the same: Be who you are. In fact, the National Coming Out Day special section was eventually renamed, “Be Who You Are.”
It seemed a fitting transition, especially considering we had known so many LGBT people who pretended to be someone else. In our own lives as Catholic priests, we often pretended to have no sexual identity whatsoever. We endured derogatory remarks and homophobic comments, all because we were afraid to be open and honest about ourselves. As a member of Jon’s priestly formation team once said to him, “The price for being openly gay is just too high to pay.”
Things have changed. We no longer live in fear. The price we paid was high, indeed. When we left active ministry and started life as a committed couple, some family members turned their backs on us. Many longtime friends had nothing more to do with us. We had become, in the words of one such friend, “radioactive.” A priest friend of Cliff’s said he couldn’t accept his friend request on Facebook because he had responsibility for a school and many of the students’ parents were also his friends on Facebook and he couldn’t risk being associated with someone who was openly gay.
So why is it important that LGBT people live open, honest lives? Today, half of all Americans say they know someone close to them who is gay or lesbian. And the fact of the matter is, when people know someone who is LGBT, they are more likely to support equality under the law. That’s what enabled the Supreme Court’s decision for marriage equality to take hold across the land.
The reason this is just an ordinary October 11 is we’re just two ordinary Americans living ordinary lives. We work hard and pay our taxes and contribute our time and talent to our community. We participate in the political process and we go to church. We worry about our retirement and we invest in our future. We’re just like so many other people who do the same…not because we’re gay but because we’re Americans.
So, this October 11, we’ll remember National Coming Out Day, but we’ll do what we ordinarily do on any given Sunday. We’ll get up and watch “CBS Sunday Morning.” Then we’ll read The New York Times. We’ll have bloody marys and brunch. We’ll probably take a nap. Then Jon will call his mom, and we’ll have dinner before calling it a weekend. Fairly ordinary stuff. But we wouldn’t want it any other way.