It's a perennial question in the gay community - and the Church - which pops up every so often.
Many of us who are 'out' of the 'closet' of homophobia know what a very difficult thing it is to do to be honest about the fullness of your humanity with yourself and people who say they love you.
The risks - and the costs - are high.
There are many levels of 'coming out'. First, to yourself, of course, which is the hardest step. I've known more Queer people who laugh and say, "It was funny. Each and every time I 'came out' to a friend or relative, they did not seem at all surprised. I seemed to be the last person to know."
I remember being turned down for a position with an LGBT organization because I wasn't "out enough". It was felt that, because I had a partner and six kids, we were, in the not-so-delicate words of one gay man, "aping the cultural stigmata" of heterosexism.
Really. Hand to Jesus.
I know some people who don't think you're 'out' until you've had a Letter to the Editor, in which you've identified yourself as Queer, published in the NY Times.
Personally, I think you're really 'out' when you just go about your life, living it out in the way you think God has called you to do. I call them 'Main Street America' heroes. They cut their lawns, pay their taxes, send their kids to school, attend PTA and town council meetings, and are otherwise contributing members of society and strive to be good citizens of the universe.
No matter how a person chooses to live their lives as honestly, authentically, ethically and with as much integrity as one can possibly have, many parts of society seem to always be in waiting for the opportunity to send us right back in the closet.
It doesn't matter, really, even if you are not involved in any PDAs - Public Displays of Affection. As soon as you begin talking - all normal-like because, well, it is - about a vacation or a family event and someone who doesn't know you begins to 'get it', you can see the realization begin to dawn on them by their facial expressions.
Sometimes, you get, "Umm.... but.... you mean?....Ah....."
Other times, you just get a sour smile. If you watch closely enough, you can almost hear the gears in their head shifting through the information and deciding how to handle it in a social situation.
It can be quite humorous, actually, depending on the situation.
A Queer person soon discovers that 'coming out' is not a one-time deal. Even after many, many years, there are thousands of ways a Queer person has to defend against prejudice and bigotry.
The worst of it is the occasions of 'micro-oppression' - the heterosexist assumptions people make about Queer people which we find we have to explain.
"No, she's not my sister/brother."
"No, she's not my mother/father."
I used to introduce Ms. Conroy as my "partner", until one day, when I was doing a gig for The Oasis in Texas, a very nice gentleman in a business suit and tie, complete white Cowboy hat and boots asked, "Your partner? And, what is your business?"
He was as serious as a drought in the cattle business. He thought Ms. Conroy was my business partner.
I smiled and said, "Oh, it's just 'family business'".
I also remember the time when the pressure was on to find a job so I could be ordained. Ms. Conroy thought it would be a nifty idea to apply for a Chaplaincy position with the Armed Forces.
I had no idea what I was supposed to do with her or the children, but I humored her and went for the physical. At the end of all the exams, I met with the doctor to review my record.
"Any problem with alcohol?" he asked, not looking at me.
"No, sir," I said.
"No problem with drugs, I presume?"
"And, um... yes, you have children, so no problem with homosexuality?"
"No, sir," I said, honestly, "I have no problem with homosexuality."
Because, you know, it's important - not only for my own sense of dignity and integrity but for the next Queer person that person will meet. One never knows when the 'teachable' moment will arrive and whether or not it will be your turn at bat to 'bunt' or go for a "line drive", or hit one over the wall with all the bases loaded.
Sometimes, a 'bunt' or a 'walk' can at least get a Queer person on base.
It can be exhausting - especially when all you really want to do is get to 'home' - or at least, feel more at 'home'. You know. Just like everybody else.
So, perhaps you can understand why it is that those of us who are 'out' become very annoyed when we meet other Queer people, especially those in positions of power, authority or influence - or those who seek positions of power, authority or influence - remain closeted.
It's annoying AND frustrating when one discovers that the closeted person remains so to his/her own benefit and remains silent in the face of discrimination and oppression of Queer people.
It's annoying, frustrating and flat out infuriating when one discovers that the Queer closeted person is sniping at other Queer people from the closet.
the homophobic shenanigans at Lambeth Palace and reported on his blog that he personally knew thirteen (13) bishops in the Church of England who are gay - some of whom have been appointed in the last 12 months.
Closeted - deeply closeted - but gay.
He noted in the comment section of his blog that this means that "over 10% of bishops in England are gay".
Colin said the he "could" name names but "As Director of Changing Attitude, the guidance from trustees (and Tina has commented above) is that Changing Attitude does not out people".
Good form. I absolutely agree. Well, to a point.
Let me begin by saying that 'coming out' is an intensely personal decision. No one should 'come out for you'. You have to do it for yourself. So, I applaud 'Changing Attitude' and any Queer Christian organization that has as a policy not to 'out' other people.
That doesn't mean that some of us are 'forced' into it - either through pressure from family or friends or flat out blackmail - or, when some nice, straight person wants to be your personal hero.
Over the years, I've known many, many Queer people who have been 'outed' to their bishops in their ordination process by well-intended Rectors or Presidents of Standing Committees or Chairs of Commissions on Ministries.
By well-intended, I mean that I really believe that this is the operative, conscious dynamic. They want to 'force the issue' in the diocese and feel that they could muster the support to 'help' the person receive the necessary approval to proceed with ordination.
I've never known that to work. The bishop still has final authority and power to decline the "advice and counsel" - and that's all it is, ultimately - of those bodies and people of influence.
If the bishop is all about being a 'symbol of unity in the church', and feels that ordaining a Queer person would harm that unity in any way, s/he will decline to ordain that person - however otherwise well qualified.
I have known one bishop who graciously transferred the approved candidate for ordination to another "friendly" diocese. However, that also comes with cost. Some folks in some diocese feel that they are participating with institutional oppression by making it 'easy' for a bishop not to ordain an otherwise qualified candidate.
All that being said, I'm convinced that the issue is not so much about 'forcing the issue' so there will be justice, but it's really about someone trying to be a 'hero'.
Bottom line: Coming out is a process which requires a life-long commitment. It should not be done lightly or inadvisedly or without prayer. And, it certainly isn't good, no matter how 'well intended' for others to 'out' a Queer person.
So, is it ever okay to "out" someone? My answer is no - but not unequivocally.
My personal credo, which has evolved over the years, is "Out the snipers."
I've never done that, personally - never been in a position to do so - but I always cheer when it is done.
You know. People like Larry Craig, former Republican senator from Idaho. Former Republican Representative Mark Foley of Florida. Rep. Ed Schrock, a Republican congressman from Virginia, who dropped out of his re-election race in 2004 after a Web log published allegations that he used a gay dating service. Senator Lindsey Graham has long been rumored to be in an hermetically sealed closet and so remains the Senior Senator from South Carolina.
Senator Barney Frank from Massachusetts, who has been 'out' since at least before the invention of sliced, white bread, says that "There are probably five or seven in the House and at least three senators," who are Queer and in the closet.
Which is fine. Really. As long as they vote the right way on issues of justice for Queer people. When they make homophobic remarks and try to influence a negative vote on repealing DOMA or DADT, I start to get angry - enough to cheer when these scoundrels are outed - and ousted from office.
Even so, it's a tricky thing. The whole thing can backfire - unless there is conclusive evidence. You know, like being caught in a public men's room or in the bushes at night in a public park.
Well, my hope is that, in the face of all the hypocrisy now in the Church of England, these men would be able to step out from behind the Lavender Curtain and begin to tell the truth about their sexual orientation.
I know. They won't. The personal cost is, perhaps, incalculably high. I have no doubt that many of these men (and, they're all men, of course), have wives and children.
In the Queer community, this is known as "having a beard" - as in something that makes you look more "masculine".
In urban slang, it's known as being "on the down low" or "on the D.L". Sometimes, it's meant to suggest that the man is 'bisexual', which, I suppose, is meant to mean "not that bad" - or, "not that gay". Masculinity intact, as it were.
In any event, it's complicated.
Actually, I do hope that these closeted Queer bishops might come out - privately - to ABC Rowans and ABY Sentamu. First, however, they'd have to come out to themselves. And, their wives and families. What they do, after that, is really up to them.
My real hope is that they won't do anything that directly hurts Queer people. You know, in the name of Jesus and the 'unity of the church'.
It's not just the secrecy. It's the hypocrisy.
And, when that secrecy and hypocrisy hurt other Queer people and they perpetuate the oppression and prejudice and bigotry, I say, "Out the snipers!"