On Identity, Pride, and Coming Out – A Personal Essay

Today we continue our celebration of LGBTQ Pride Month with an original, personal essay under this week’s theme: family and relationships.

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Today we continue our celebration of LGBTQ Pride Month with an original, personal essay under this week’s theme: family and relationships. While recent horrific events may discourage us, we tread onwards in support of the LGBTQ community and hope to meaningfully contribute to the conversation around respect, dignity, and equality for all.

Please visit our blog each Monday in June as we post think pieces from Wiley authors and LGBTQ advocates centered around a new theme. You’ll also get unlocked access to journal articles and book excerpts that examine the ethical, social, and philosophical issues faced by the LGBTQ community. Thanks for joining us as we continue the necessary conversation on LGBTQ rights, awareness, and support.


Author’s Note: I wrote this a few days before the horrific tragedy that unfolded in the early hours of this past Sunday morning in Orlando. I wrote this with an immense feeling of pride for who I am, pride for who my family is, and pride for all the progress that we as a community have made. I wrote this with an immense sense of hope and happiness for the future as we continue to ride on the wave towards true equality. Yet Sunday’s events have rattled the soul and have shaken my determination… but that can only be temporary. I still feel all of these things – more deeply so now – despite that fact that there are people in this world who do not want me or my brothers and sisters to exist. But we do exist and someone else’s narrow reality is never going to change that.

aerial view of an autumn landscape
aerial view of an autumn landscape

When I told my family that I was gay, I remembered thinking to myself beforehand that I wanted the act of telling them to be more about the fact that I had met someone special as opposed to an epic proclamation of something that frankly they had already heavily suspected. Not because I don’t feel pride for who and what I am. Let me be clear — once I came to understand what these feelings were, I have never once wanted to be anyone other than myself. Rather, I wanted my family to understand that I wasn’t any different. I was still the same sometimes quiet, sometimes loud little boy that I had always been. I wanted it to be no different than when my brother brought his first serious girlfriend home to meet my parents. I wanted that for myself because I don’t view myself differently from my brother in that respect, and I felt that I deserved that moment.

Homosexuality is not a stranger to my family – deriving mostly from my mother’s side. My father likes to joke about this openly. My closest cousin erupted out of the closet in the early 90’s and it landed like a thud on the living room floor when we were all told. But it was a sign of the times. He was living in New York City, AIDS was continuing to ravage the community, and discrimination was driving the greater reason to speak out and be proud. My other cousin never needed to come out because he was just born with that authentic sense of self and his sexuality was never questioned. And so on and so on, as there are several others. They are all older than I am – I am the baby – therefore again came into themselves at a time when the sexual preference proclamation was intrinsically necessary.

It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I was getting ready to leave my parent’s house in Connecticut to return to Boston, but before I left I needed to have this conversation with my family. My brother already knew – I had told him months prior. I expected my father to bristle and stiffen in that classic, New England Irish Catholic way – immediately shutting any and all emotion inside – and for my mother to embrace me with a million motherly arms, telling me she always knew, that she was so proud, and that she wanted to know all about this new boyfriend.

So when I muttered the words “I have a new person in my life,” what I didn’t realize was that it truly did come as a surprise to my parents. My father sternly looked at me for a moment, paused, and said that he had been all over the world, that he had met and worked with all kinds of people, and that it made no difference to him who I loved. He came over to me to give me a hug and said he was happy that I had found someone. I could tell that my mother’s back had straightened and she said things like “I’m disappointed” and “don’t put yourself at risk” and “I wish your life was going in another direction.” It was hard for me to hear, and to be honest, I was the one who was disappointed and felt very much that my life was finally going in the right direction. I left relieved but also feeling a sense that something had changed between parent and child.

Time passed and feelings began to ease. A few weeks later, my mother apologized for reacting the way she did. And then she wanted me to tell her all about this new boyfriend. Obviously, she needed the space to absorb this new reality. I am not sure if my very traditional parents truly understand the situation, but we move forward with the hope that one day they will. I continue to say things like “when we get married” and “if we have children” just to remind them that this is the life I have – unexpected as it is. And it sinks in. A few months ago, we were on the phone and my mother said that she couldn’t understand how a family could disown a child for being gay. It was a horrible example of the flaws within our human makeup. She hopes that we can reach a place where all of this isn’t necessary because people are people and family is family.

People are people. And family is family.

It is such a parochial statement with no real depth within the syntax, but the meaning is clear and profound. You are who you are and that isn’t something that should ever change. Your family members are your greatest champions and should be there for you always. I was proud to hear my mother say these words, especially after our rocky start. The latest research shows that 73% of millennials support same-sex marriage, whereas the Baby Boomer generation, i.e., my parents’ generation, is still stuck underneath 50%. This presents a seismic shift in attitudes towards both gender and sexuality, especially as millennials begin to have families of their own.

The fight for equality and acceptance is far from over though. This month, President Obama hosted a reception in honor of Pride month and in his closing comments said, “So some folks never imagined we’d come this far — maybe even some in this room. Change can be slow. And I know that there have been times where at least some of the people in this room have yelled at me. But together, we’ve proven that change is possible, that progress is possible. It’s not inevitable, though. History doesn’t just travel forward; it can go backwards if we don’t work hard. So we can’t be complacent. We cannot be complacent. Securing the gains this country has made requires perseverance and vigilance. And it requires voting. Because we’ve got more work to do.”

World map of sexual orientation laws by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)
World map of sexual orientation laws by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)

There are parts of this world – including the United States – where parents and communities do not accept this type of progress. And so he is absolutely right; we’ve got more work to do. The month of June is a time for everyone – the LGBTQ community, allies, parents, brothers, sisters, friends – to celebrate the progress that we’ve made and to also look towards the future progress that needs to come….

Happy Pride!


About the Author

Brian GiblinBrian Giblin is a publishing professional living and working in Boston. He currently works at Wiley as a Journals Publishing Manager in the areas of Business, Management, and Policy Studies. In his spare time he enjoys baking, reading paperback books, and riding his bicycle.

 

 

It’s LGBTQ Pride Month

lgbtq pride 2016

All people deserve to live with dignity and respect, free from fear and violence, and protected against discrimination, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

– Barack Obama in his Presidential Proclamation for LGBT Pride Month 2015

June is LGBTQ Pride Month. Celebrate with us!

Visit The Philosopher’s Eye Blog each Monday this month to read think pieces from Wiley authors and LGBTQ advocates. You’ll also get unlocked access to journal articles and book excerpts that examine the ethical, social, and philosophical issues faced by the LGBTQ community.

Join us as we continue the necessary conversation on LGBTQ rights, awareness, and support.

Happy Reading,

The Wiley Blackwell Philosophy Team

 

In Memoriam: Claudia Card (1940-2015)

Our condolences go out to the surviving family and colleagues of noted Dr. Claudia Falconer Card, who passed away September 12, 2015.

Card was the Emma Goldman Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her research interests included ethics and social philosophy, including normative ethical theory; feminist ethics; environmental ethics; theories of justice, of punishment, and of evil; and the ethics of Kant, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche. Her work also deeply involved Women’s Studies, Jewish Studies, Environmental Studies, and LGBT Studies.

Claudia Card

Dr. Card’s obituary is linked here.

Additionally, philosopher Kate Norlock, a former student of the professor, beautifully reflects on the life and work of Dr. Card here.

Instead of mourning her death per her own request, the University of Wisconsin-Madison will honor Dr. Card with A Celebration of Life, which will take place Sunday, Oct. 11 from 1:00pm-4:00pm at the Pyle Center Alumni Lounge.

We have joined in celebrating the life and career of Claudia Card by making free a special collection on her articles.


Rape as a Weapon of War

Hypatia | Volume 11, Issue 4, November 1996

Against Marriage and Motherhood

Hypatia | Volume 11, Issue 3, August 1996

Gay Divorce: Thoughts on the Legal Regulation of Marriage

Hypatia | Volume 22, Issue 1, February 2007

Genocide and Social Death

Hypatia | Volume 18, Issue 1, February 2003

Selected Bibliography of Lesbian Philosophy and Related Works

Hypatia | Volume 7, Issue 4, November 1992

Removing Veils of Ignorance

Journal of Social Philosophy | Volume 22, Issue 1, March 1991

Review Essay: Sadomasochism And Sexual Preference

Journal of Social Philosophy | Volume 15, Issue 2, May 1984

The Road to Lake Wobegon

Journal of Social Philosophy | Volume 30, Issue 3, Winter 1999

What’s Wrong with Adult-Child Sex?

Journal of Social Philosophy | Volume 33, Issue 2, Summer 2002

Stoicism, Evil, and the Possibility of Morality

Metaphilosophy | Volume 29, Issue 4, October 1998

Women, Evil, and Grey Zones

Metaphilosophy | Volume 35, Issue 1, October 2000

The Paradox of Genocidal Rape Aimed at Enforced Pregnancy

The Southern Journal of Philosophy | Volume 46, Issue S1, Spring 2008

Next Steps in LGBT: Continuing Awareness

“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.” —Nathaniel Branden, American Psychologist

National Equality March 2009
Photo credit: Flicker—Kyle Rush

Thank you, readers, for joining us on our month-long LGBT blog take-over. Together we turned a critical eye on the human rights and rhetoric surrounding the LGBT community. Expanding past the common belief that equality is purely a social issue, our guest editors and articles showed relevance in business, education, psychology, bioethics and more. To facilitate the continuation of our thoughts and communal work, we’re setting free more scholarly articles and book chapters focused on awareness as a crucial engine in social change. Take a look at our page to see the latest in research across the social sciences and humanities in awareness.

The engine for social change is a moving target; one that if we’re not reading and engaging with, it can stall out. LGBT Pride Month garnered significant momentum in 2015 and we encourage you to share this page, the blog, your comments, and this content with peers. Keep talking, thinking, and demanding human rights and advocacy because if we learned anything from this month, it’s that LGBT rights affect all of us.

Highlights:

From our top-read blog post, Queering Philosophy—How can queer theory inform and transform the practice of Philosophy?

“The goal then has to be not to establish queer theory as a recognized subfield in philosophy, but to elaborate how the questions and methods of queer thought can more generally inform and transform the practice of philosophy and its standards for knowledge production.” —Annika Thiem, Hypatia

Read more

Business and LGBTQ, LGBTs in the Workplace

“The purpose of this special issue is to take LGBT scholarship to the next stage by gathering new knowledge and extending theory on LGBT individuals in the workplace.” —Canadian Journal of Administrative Science

Read more

The Coming Out Story—YouTube Beauty Guru, Ingrid Nilsen, Comes Out in Emotional Video

“Ingrid’s story is unique in that it had by 900,000 hits in eight hours.” —Kathryn Coble

Read more

Reproduction and the LGBT Parent; a Changing Narrative

"Love Makes A Family"One historically important objection to gay and lesbians relationships is that they are inherently sterile and incapable of producing children. Many gay men, lesbians, and bisexual people have managed to have children anyway, through prior relationships, adoption and by relying on donated gametes and gestational surrogacy.  The prospect of synthetic gametes may lead to further options as well, if researchers can derive female gametes from men and male gametes from women.  With synthetic gametes, a same-sex couple would not need any third-party gamete donor in order to conceive a child. Inventive options are available for transgender people too. Some jurisdictions used to require evidence of sterility before re-categorizing people they treated as male to female, from female to male. Most jurisdictions no longer require sterilization that way, with the interesting result that some transgender men have gestated children.  Transgender women might in the future turn to uterus transplants in order to gestate children, if clinicians can replicate for them the 2014 success they had in securing a live birth for a woman who had a uterus transplant. Artificial gametes might also give transgender men and women the option of being genetic fathers and mothers to their children, respectively.  Nothing about being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender by itself ‘turns off’ the interest in having children. In light of the options now available and of those on the horizon, the future for LGBT people is looking less and less ‘sterile’ all the time.

Timothy F. Murphy is a Professor of Philosophy in the Biomedical Sciences at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago.  He is also an author with the Hastings Center Report, a prominent journal in biomedical ethics.

Read the collection of articles from the Hastings Center Report and other journals free through July 15th! Read Free

Closing the Question about Trans-Identities

3111086451_91879a4b16_oWas there ever a time in which a person could have argued for the moral acceptability of slavery without doing something gravely wrong in the very arguing? Maybe not, but it ever there were, it is now long, long, past; some questions are simply closed.

Questions about the validity of transpeople’s identities—of whether, e.g., transwomen are “really” women, eligible to apply to Smith College and to use women’s restroom, have been considered fair game since we emerged into public view. Whether expressed in academic prose, in political posturing, or in outright sneers, such questions are heard by many transpeople as profoundly disparaging, and sometimes menacing.

Yet if the tide of social attitudes and practices easing passages between genders keeps swelling, such debates might become as out of place as, say, a serious discussion about whether homosexuality is a mental illness. The sound you hear may be the closing of yet another question about how human beings may live together.

What I wonder about is this: in the time remaining before trans becomes just another way of having a gender, as, say, adoption is just another way of becoming a parent, is there anything that need not be disparaging, that might actually be helpful, to be said? Might it be good for transpeople to take a moment to think about whether their own understandings and practices might sometimes be politically retrograde, or to have some insight into the challenge their lives pose to how cisgender people now have to reimagine themselves?

Jamie Lindemann Nelson

The Hastings Center Report

Professor at Michigan State University

The End of Reparative Therapy

50 Great Myths of Human Sexuality
50 Great Myths of Human Sexuality

With the removal of homosexuality as a mental illness in the 1970’s came a change in how therapists treated gay, lesbian, and bisexual patients. Instead of attempting to change a patient’s sexual orientation, experts were told to help them understand it and learn to cope in what was still a very homophobic society.
When mental health professionals changed, however, religious organizations picked up the mantle and started ministries dedicated to “reparative” therapy. Their members—who were sometimes referred to as ex-gays—went through programs that varied from independent bible study to aversion therapy, which involved administering electric shocks every time a patient became aroused by gay pornography.
These groups were very vocal for a few decades and lent their support to efforts to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals; they argued against teaching about sexual orientation in schools, fought the formation of gay-straight alliances, opposed marriage equality, and worked to prevent LGBTQ individuals from adopting children.
Their arguments were all grounded in the idea that sexual orientation could change, that people didn’t have to be gay. Ex-gays were paraded around as success stories—such as in a 1998 ad that insisted men could “pray away the gay.”
And then the truth began to come out. Some leaders of this movement were caught having homosexual affairs, visiting gay bars, or meeting men online. Others stepped forward to admit they were wrong, that they are still gay, and that sexual orientation does not change. In 2013, Exodus International—one of the largest and at one point most powerful, ex-gay ministries—shut its doors.
Now, in the United States at least, it looks like the time of reparative therapy has passed. The courts have held up laws in two states banning the practice for minors. The White House came out against it. And two Democratic Senators recently introduced a resolution condemning it.
But probably the best sign that its days are numbered come in the apologies from those who once sang its praises. Like these words from Exodus’ last president Alan Chambers: “I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change….  I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or worse.”

Martha Kempner, 2015.
Martha Kempner is co-author with Pepper Schwartz of 50 Great Myths of Human Sexuality published 2015 by Wiley