Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in the State of California. If Milk had not been assassinated, he might have turned 92 today. He was a gay-rights and human-rights activist most of his adult life. Milk advocated the importance of being who you are. On a personal level, he is one of my favorite historical figures.
“I have tasted freedom. I will not give up that which I have tasted.”–Harvey Milk
Perhaps one of the major benefits of being out and affirming who I am, is freedom. On the now rare chance that someone calls me a faggot, I might reply, “That’s Mr. Faggot to You”. (That’s also the title of a book written by Michael Thomas Ford and published in 1999 by Alyson Books.) Although such frankness feels uncomfortable to many people, it is a declaration of independence for folks who refuse to be oppressed any longer.
You don’t need to be LGBT to come out and own your true self. You might be an artist who is unsure whether or not pursuing art is a socially useful activity. Perhaps your personal belief system is not that of the majority culture–coming out as Pagan or Atheist is scary in many parts of the world.
What is the most exciting aspect of your life? Is it something that might be frowned upon by society at large? I have not met a single person who doesn’t feel misunderstood in some way. What do you wish others could understand better about you?
If money or social status were of no concern to you, what would you most dearly want to do or become? Do you love your job, or did you choose the wrong career path for your personality? Many people detest their jobs but are afraid to take steps to change their professional lives. I have a friend who used to be a dentist but had to stay in his practice so he could pay off his student loans. After Barry satisfied his financial responsibility, he closed his small clinic and became a freelance photographer. Although Barry sometimes struggles financially, he wouldn’t trade his new profession for anything else in the world.
There are some questions to ask if you are not being who you truly are: When you were a child, what did you dream of becoming as an adult? What was your fondest dream for yourself? Many people are in the closet about their dreams because they fear rejection by their families or colleagues. What was the worst act you ever committed? Was it a felony or something else? This is a major hurdle because society has toxic opinions about ex-convicts. What is your favorite thing about yourself that society frowns upon? What do you obsess over–what do you think about that other people may not approve of?
Pondering these questions during introspective moments will help you get to know yourself better. Being who you really are is one of the most difficult acts many people trouble themselves about because of the possible social consequences. You wonder if you will be truly accepted by your family and loved ones. Many folks finally give themselves permission to be themselves and let the cards fall where they may. When the time and circumstances feel right, trust your instincts and surrender to yourself.
It’s not always easy-breezy coming out of whatever closets people lock themselves into. On the other hand, affirming and being the person you truly are is how to win authentic freedom. Once you taste true freedom, you never want to relinquish it.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Harvey Milk. “Gay brothers and sisters … You must come out. Come out… to your parents… I know that it is hard and will hurt them; but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth.”