Christopher Chavez Feb. 29, 2008 In or Out “So what? Are you gay or something?” It is not exactly a conversation starter. Actually, it is probably one of the most loaded personal questions (read: insults) that a person can ask. It is a simple word. The kind of word that holds so much power in our society, hanging heavy on our minds and hearts. If you close your eyes and listen closely, you can almost hear whispers of another word beneath it, heatedly spewing “fag.” It is a very confusing word, one part religion, one part politics, and one part fear. Right after the question is asked there is a brief half-breath pause. In that heartbeat, the possibilities are endless. It can make or break entire relationships. There are plenty of obvious reactions: denial, anger, and fear. It takes a strong person to admit to it, and an even stronger person to be truly comfortable with it. When my best friend was asked this question he didn’t even blink or flinch. He gathered himself up to his full height of six foot two, he knew how to use every inch, and said: “I am half black, half white; half Jewish mother, half corporate attorney. I listen to hip hop, read Suze Orman, build my business, procrastinate homework, and criticize politics. I’m random, strange, weird, funny, socially liberal, blunt, a fighter, nice, new age idealist, different, somewhat charming, closeted nerd, sarcastic and a crazy friend. I am like everybody else in the fact that I am like nobody else. Oh yeah, and gay.” One thing I have learned, and have seen spread slowly but surely through society like the flu, is that coming out is not about the ins-or-outs of a closet. It is not about shouting you are gay, but accepting that you can only ever be yourself. It would be idiotic of me to introduce myself as “Hello, I am gay.” That is not the first thing I would say about me. It is not the tenth or the hundredth or the thousandth. It is a description of me, a very small one, and it does not encompass me as an individual. It is a different mindset than our forefathers. Before it was about shouting through the chains that bound your speech. Now it is about realizing that the chains were never really there in the first place. It is not about ignoring invisible taboos that held you down but accepting that the taboos are disappearing faster and faster. The new-age individuals start to find themselves in a brave new world dripping with promise, possibility, and risk. In our society, it is far easier to impart some kind of universal truth on everybody, than to find a simple truth for an individual. As if the easiest way to define yourself is to define how others are different. It is a world of labels, codes, and invisible barriers. If I take a silent pause, holding my breath tight in my lungs, I can hear the collective sigh of a people watching the chains vanish. These little moments happen every day, every moment. Somewhere out in the world, another person is stepping outside of an invisible box. When next I am asked the question, “Are you gay?” I know how to respond. I am a hazel-eyed, half-Mexican guy. I am confident in myself, my friends, my family, and my future. I am proud, funny, maternal, unorganized, prudish, and friendly. I am a person who likes my peanut-butter jelly sandwiches with bananas. I watch foreign films and eat vegetarian. If it’s still important ... I am gay. © 2008 Queer Foundation. All Rights Reserved.