DEAR ABBY: I was lunching with five or six co-workers the other day and the topic turned to gay rights. During the conversation, one of them said, "I don't know why they have to talk about it." I was shocked speechless because everyone at the table knew that I am gay.
Later, I thought of all the things I should have said. Then I compiled a list of reasons why we talk about it. If you think it's worthwhile, please print it on Oct. 11, because that is National Coming Out Day. -- ED IN LONG ISLAND, N.Y.
DEAR ED: Whether to come out or not is a personal decision, and one that should not be taken lightly. However, your reasons present a strong argument in favor of doing so and I'm pleased to print them on National Coming Out Day to encourage those who might be hesitant about identifying themselves. It's OK to be gay, and it's OK to be yourself.
REASONS WHY WE TALK ABOUT IT
1. Until we started talking about it, laws were enacted by straight people telling gay people what they were and were not allowed to do.
Forty-five years ago, nothing could be sent through the U.S. mail about love or intimacy between gay people. Thirty years ago, openly gay people could be fired from government jobs. We could be expelled from most schools, the government could close bars that had lesbian and gay patrons, we couldn't be priests or ministers, and we were banned from many professional organizations. Twenty-five years ago, we could be jailed or institutionalized for being gay.
Laws still exist that prevent gay people from adopting, that take our children from us, that allow us to be jailed for making love to our partners, that permit straight people to refuse to rent to us, or serve us in restaurants for no other reason than that we are gay. It was "talking about it" that led to the repeal of hundreds of those laws.
2. If we didn't talk about it, enlightened people wouldn't be teaching their children that it's wrong to call people "faggot," and that it's wrong to treat gay people differently from straight people. (My parents never told me otherwise.)
3. If we didn't talk about it, straight people wouldn't know who we are, nor would they realize that their friend, co-worker, sibling, parent or child is gay. When straights don't know that someone they love is gay, they often don't stop to think how unfair it is that gay people can be legally discriminated against in 37 states.
4. We talk about it because many of us grew up thinking we were alone because nobody talked about it.
5. I talk about it because otherwise, straight people tell me anti-gay jokes and use anti-gay language in front of me.
6. I talk about it because so many other people cannot. In the U.S. military, men and women lose their jobs for saying, "I am gay," which should be a direct violation of their First Amendment rights.
7. I talk about it because I want folks to see that most gay people are average people, not the monsters that straight people are taught that we are. Prejudice like that is the reason that many gay men and women are beaten up or murdered in the streets.
8. I talk about it because my straight friends are surprised when I say that a movie they liked was awful -- completely missing the fact that the gay characters were outdated stereotypes.
9. I talk about it because I want the children in my family to know that you can be gay and a good person. And I want to counterbalance all those who are deceitful, misinformed or have misinterpreted the word of God.