Unless you’ve been living under a rock this past week, you may have heard that Anderson Cooper recently outed himself to the world. While his sexual orientation has long been an open secret to most of us as members of the LGBT community, it may not have been to other people. This revelation is extraordinarily important, in ways that some of you may not have thought about. As LGBT, the more we are visible to our fellow human beings — so it is hoped — the less stupidity and outright ignorance will exist.
Some of what you’re about to read might seem like I’m whining, or that I’m lecturing, or that I’m complaining. Truth be told, the thought has crossed my mind many times while writing this post. I don’t expect to instantly change anyone’s mind who happens to read this — but maybe if I lend a personal slant, perhaps you can better relate.
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I didn’t come out of the closet until I had left the Navy in November 1988. I had some inkling while I was growing up that I was different from other kids – I knew that I was attracted to guys, not so much to girls. I didn’t have a name for it, but the light of truth dawned on me the first day I was in boot camp. I knew then what it meant to be “gay”, and more importantly, I figured it all out. You could say that my parent did her job too well, living in the Age of Reagan during the “Just Say No” years.
Before the advent of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell‘, if a volunteer declared that he or she was gay, that was an automatic disqualification from serving in the armed forces. I had signed up by attesting that I was not at all homosexual. Oh, the benefit of hindsight. I realized that day that I didn’t want to spend the next four years living a lie, so I devised a way for me to leave the Navy as quickly and efficiently as possible while still playing by the rules. I intentionally failed the swimming test they give you in the fifth week of boot camp and managed to secure an ELS. An ELS is known as an “entry-level-separation”; it’s not the same thing as a dishonorable discharge, because to my understanding, I hadn’t been in long enough in the armed forces to qualify for that kind of forced separation.
When it came time for me to out myself to Mom, she said that she knew long before I had realized the truth about myself, but had hoped that it would never come to pass. When it came time for me to out myself to my family, Mom and I would have shouting matches as to why I wanted to bother. In the end, it didn’t really matter because my grandmother figured out that I was gay without my having to explicitly say it.
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I constantly hear from random strangers or read on the Internet about “how there are too many gays” or that “I don’t need to proclaim my [straight] orientation, why do you need to make your gayness in my face?” Well, folks might not be as informed as I am, but here are three disturbing news-worthy trends that have happened in the past couple of years:
In the United States, there are LGBT teenagers committing suicide because they are regularly discriminated against, hated, bullied, assaulted on a daily basis, ostracized and generally thought of as monsters and abominations. Think about that for a moment and let it sink in.
In Uganda, a coalition of Christian churches has, within the last 30 days, issued a call for speedy passage of legislation that would make it a crime punishable by death just for being gay.
In Russia, legislation that was recently enacted into law has banned all Pride parades and any displays, dissemination or transmission of LGBT culture. The maximum fine for violating that law is 500,000 rubles (€12,800/$17,000). It’s more than the average annual income in Russia.
This is the price we pay for living life as we know it — as LGBT — where we are open and visible, out and proud. There are costs to being visible as you have read, but I submit that there are greater costs that are paid by living in the closet, in fear or with despair. Costs that are incurred when voices are silenced, when views go unexpressed, when lives are stilled before they can bloom. A life based on a lie is no life at all; it is, in fact, a living death.
To those of you who think we should be invisible, know that this will never come to pass, not in your lifetime, now or in the future. To those of you who prefer that we should remain silent or that we should not stand up and speak out, that too shall not happen.
When we are no longer attacked, beaten, discriminated against, hated, killed, murdered, ostracized, bullied, tortured, loathed or despised by people who should really know better, not just here in America but around the world, then perhaps you may live long enough to see a time when a person’s sexual orientation is not news, or when it will no longer be necessary for someone to publicly declare him- or herself “gay”, “lesbian”, “bisexual” or “transgender”. We will have achieved true equality. On that day, the glass box that we all live in will have shattered, and freedom will have never tasted so sweet.
Until that day comes to pass, you and those who think like you, are just going to have to deal with it.
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Now that I’ve gotten THAT off of my chest, how about a nice bowl of beans and tomatoes?
Fava bean and heirloom tomato ragoût
1 pound young fava beans
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
3 small to medium heirloom tomatoes, finely diced
sea salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
juice of half a lemon
Shell the fava beans and discard the pods. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the favas and simmer for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Drain, then shock the beans immediately in a bowl of ice water. The outer skin of each bean should come right off.
Put the fava beans in a saucepan with a mixture of half cold water and half olive oil, enough to barely cover them. Add the garlic and oregano. Bring to a simmer, partially cover and cook until the beans are tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. When beans are done, stir in the tomatoes. Taste for salt and pepper. Spoon bean mixture into a shallow soup bowl, finish with a squeeze of lemon juice and a little more oregano, then serve at once.
Time: About 40 minutes, including prep. The vast majority of the time will be spent peeling the fava beans.