The suffering that society consistently imposes on gay, bisexual and trans (LGBTQ) people is multi-faceted. We get robbed of our childhoods, our first crushes, excluded for our communities, kicked out from places of worship, ridiculed in culture and by politicians, harassed at school and at work and, when and if we reach old age, we get forgotten and sometimes go back in the closet.
The punishment for our identity is relentless, lifelong and exhausting.
In 2016, French inter-LGBTQ published a video called the “obstacle course” which best illustrate the burden of homophobia and transphobia our lives. On National Coming Out Day 2020, I wish Justices Thomas and Alito, President Sissi, Ramzan Kadyrov, President Joko Widodo, Mike Pence, J.K. Rowling and Laurent Wauquiez would be forced to sit together, preferably in a cold room in Grozny, watch this clip and then write jointly a 500-words essay on what it means to them.
While it is worse to be LGBTQ in places where laws and societal attitudes lag behind the rest of the world, it is still bad news to be a gay boy on the outer edges of Brooklyn or a trans girl in posh neighborhoods in Paris. Our journey is far from over. We have only scratched the surface of equality. In fact, to me the first step would be for us to be featured in schoolbooks and we are very far from achieving that.
In light of this, every single LGBT people in every corner of the world standing on this National Coming Out Day is a miracle. Many of us do not make it. My Facebook is filled with profiles of my dead brothers and sisters: drug overdose, suicide, organ failure or motorcycle accidents. We are so creative in the way we lead our lives and the way we end them. If we cannot write on our death certificates that homophobia and transphobia killed us, then why not go for really outrageous death causes. I even have a friend that drowned in the Baltimore marina in his twenties. In my book, LGBTQ people are a testimony of resilience in light of human’s cruelty. And for this, LGBTQ people are a ray of light in these dark times.
But, among all this cruelty, the most horrendous aspect of society’s persecution against LGBTQ people is that it robs us of honesty.
We are taught from an early age that to survive we need to lie. We are told by society to hide our most fundamental truth to people closest to us: our parents, our teachers and our priests. Our own parents teach us that it is better to lie than to tell the truth in order to guarantee the comfort of those around us. Sometimes, I reflect on the boy I used to be lying awake at night in tears praying to God to lift this attraction to boys and showing a light and joking figure to my family at breakfast. It is no wonder that my relationship to truth has been deeply altered. Coming out is not enough to restore the truth we are robbed of. But it is the “act of bravery, authenticity and openness” (HRC, 2006) that places us back on the long road back to honesty. It is the first step in a journey to authenticity, to knowing ourselves and being able to present our truth to the world around us.
One of the criticisms that you hear about gay people from the rest of society is that we are “too loud”, that we have “no filter”, that we talk openly about taboo topics such as sex, money or our feelings. In fact, the reason we are so open is that we know the value of truth because we have to pay such a high price for it.