Those Who Came Out in 2016 ~ YE GAY OL’ VALLEY

By: Dani Langevin – January, 2017

There has been a lot of focus on celebrity deaths over the past year, especially in the past few weeks where 2016 seemed hell bent on shocking us all with a number of rapid losses. Instead of focusing on the past year’s losses, I thought I’d focus on some of those who took the leap and opened up their closet doors. This is still a very personal and often times painful process, but it is one that becomes even more difficult when you are held to certain standards depending upon the limelight that causes you to be under more scrutiny than your average LGBTQ+ person. Those of you who still struggle with this community and why we have to “announce” our sexuality may never get why it is so important to do so and I’m not about to give you a life’s lesson. I just want to celebrate those who were brave enough to do so in hopes that it will continue to save lives and validate those of others who struggle with unsupportive friends and family members.

Let’s look at the world of athletics. Most of us wouldn’t know many of these names because they are not Tom Brady or Serena Williams. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that these are people known for their athletic prowess, making a living off of what is silently touted as a heterosexual vocation and are willing to risk breaking the constraints of sexual stereotypes. Mason Darrow is a member of Princeton’s football team who came out to his teammates saying, “It was the best decision I’d ever made.” Professional wrestler Matt Cage came out because he was according to The Advocate, “Tired of hiding and being depressed.” Chris Burns (Bryant basketball coach), David Denson and Sean Conroy (minor league baseball), Keegan Hirst (rugby), and Bill Kennedy who said that he was proud to be an NBA ref and a gay man.

Athletes, especially male athletes, admittedly say how difficult it is for them to come out in a “man’s” world, but what about those people who have chosen a life of the cloth? What is so difficult to see these people as sexual human beings? The life of chastity imposed on religious leaders of certain faiths was not a God given dictate. It was a restriction created by men to control men. Human beings, for the most part, are social/sexual beings and no one should be denied that simply because they have faith. Father Martin Dolin of Ireland came out to his congregation this year, after telling them that he supported gay rights and same sex marriage. Rev. Warren Hall came out after he lost his job at Seton Hall University because he posted something on social media in support of the LGBTQ+ community. He lost his job! For speaking up for a minority group that has been historically mistreated (a euphemism for sure). Isn’t that what Jesus did-embrace the downtrodden? Jayne Orzane is a lay leader of the Church of England. She went through conversion therapy because she struggled so much with her faith and sexuality. She even considered suicide. Why does there have to be a separation of faith and sexuality. Wasn’t it God, after all, who made these people, these wonderfully brave, intelligent and selfless people who they are?

Here’s a list of some political leaders that came out in 2016: Ireland’s Health Minister-Leo Varadkar; Alan Bell-Chief Minister of a small island in the British Isles; Nick Gibb-a member of the conservative party in Parliament. Then there is the story of Itzik Shmuli. He is a member of the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament. Now you can imagine how closeted one must be in Israel, especially a political leader. However, when a knife wielding man attacked participants at a Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem, Shmuli could no longer be silent.

On a side note, this incident took place in July of 2015, but I had to include it in my column. Shmuli came out after this took place stating. “This terrible criminal act that once again happened in “the city of God”, is an attack on all of us. It attacks the right of all of us to be different, make our choices, accept differences and include the other.”

Among those who came out last year and have some sort of a name in the media were actors and actresses, singers, Youtube celebs, journalists, activists and so many more. They are but a microcosm of the hundreds of thousands, if not, millions who continue to come out, struggle to come out or never do because they are paralyzed with fear to remain in the closet. For every person who is in some sort of limelight there are scores more whose lives were just saved because they now have a hero. Well done 2016. Lets keep that closet door open along with our hearts and minds.