Saturday, August 27, 2011

Coming Out – Still a Big Deal

I got into a fit of organization the other day. Went through my closets and storage and put a little order in my life. One of the things I found myself doing was untangling a bunch of telephone cords. How did I every collect so many?

That came to mind this morning when I came across a YouTube video of a young soldier. He’s 21 and he’s gay and he’s coming out of the closet.

Not all the way. He speaks, and you see him talking with his hands, but you don’t see his face. He is beginning to reveal his secret to his friends, but will not show his face until September 20th, when the DADT policy is officially reversed.

Most of you, I suspect, will find this terribly boring. Who needs another coming out story? Who needs a long drawn out coming out story, especially?

But there is something terribly touching about this. It’s one guy to whom this is a major life event, and he reveals in a nutshell how the world has changed and how young people live in a different media environment from those of us who still keep miles of land-line telephone cords in storage.

The reason I stuck with this young man (besides an esthetic appreciation for a well-built male upper body, I mean) is that I am fascinated with what a profound cultural phenomenon this sea change in attitudes toward homosexuality is and how powerful the forces of condemnation have been that even now, after all the progress in gay liberation, a young man’s coming out is still a big f’ing deal.

He’s from a conservative family, he says. Right. People from liberal families have it easier. That’s not rocket science. But just look at what this says about the thousands of folk only today getting rid of the onus of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell. While one half of our nation moves comfortably now through the process of demystifying and mainstreaming their gay friends and neighbors, the other half is still sturming and dranging all over the land. If that doesn’t tickle your sense of the absurd, your absurdity meter is probably overdue for a checkup.

Watch it if you have ten minutes some time. Appreciate the cuteness. Or marvel at the laboriousness. Or perhaps the big ego. That was my first reaction. A big ego.

But after watching, I don’t think so. I think it’s more about being young and finding yourself. And I was struck at how night after night I watch the PBS Evening News Hour and end up aching at the photos they show at the end of the program of all the 21-year-olds who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There you see only their heads. Here the head is missing, but he’s still alive. It’s an image of a young man not dying but just beginning to live.

And using the latest technology to do it.

The brave new world of YouTube. I hear and read that young people today are flashing each other, posing online, having sex on video and sharing it with the world. There’s something off-putting about that. Something you know you don’t want your own kids to do. It feels like they’re falling down somehow.

But this use of the new online networking media is different. This guy is coming out. Getting up off the floor.

And he’s symbolically bringing the army, the navy, the air force and the marines with him.

The army is coming out. Now that’s a big deal, actually. Polish your champagne glasses. On September 20th, this young man is going to show his face. We all should join the party.


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