Barro describes coming out of the closet as a “duty”:
San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk got this right in 1978, when he admonished his fellow gays and lesbians to come out of the closet in order to build opposition to a ballot measure that would have banned gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools: “Come out to your relatives. I know that is hard and will upset them but think how they will upset you in the voting booth.”
This obligation is only stronger now that social acceptance of gays and lesbians is higher, meaning the cost of coming out has declined. And it lies particularly with those in positions of privilege and power, who have the resources to withstand negative reactions. Coming out was stressful for me like it is for most people, but let’s be real: Announcing that you’re gay in a wealthy family in a progressive suburb of Boston as you’re about to enter Harvard University is a pretty easy hand to play.
I’m afraid I have the same conviction, possibly burned more deeply by the memory of the plague. I remember one HRC dinner back in the day when I was asked to speak. I asked people who were out to their families, friends and co-workers to put their hands up. In a well-heeled, tuxedoed, bejeweled crowd, only about a third put up their hands. I asked who were not out – and another third went up. I then said, in words I reiterate today to anyone in the closet writing checks to gay groups, “Why don’t you leave right now and come back when you’ve done something for gay rights?”
If you’re reading this, and your hand went up as in the closet, my question stands.
(Photo: Openly gay pro boxer Orlando Cruz celebrates victory over Jorge Pazos at Kissimmee Civic Center on October 19, 2012 in Kissimmee, Florida. By J. Meric/Getty Images.)