Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

A casual conversation following a recent meeting triggered my most recent epiphany. (I think it was an epiphany, although it may have been heartburn…)

We were discussing the comparatively swift change of American popular opinion on the rights of  LGBTQ citizens, and the extent to which “coming out” had accelerated that change. Political scientists have attributed much of the success of the gay rights movement to the profoundly political act of emerging from the closet. As the friend with whom I was talking put it, “Most people knew gay people–they just didn’t know that they knew gay people.”

So true.

When your family realized that Shirley wasn’t just elderly Aunt Gladys’ longtime roommate, but something more–when your doctor introduced you to his significant other–when cousin Johnny explained his lack of interest in finding a girlfriend…attitudes changed. Granted, a lot of people who exited the closet suffered rejection and worse, but their exit changed society dramatically and for the better.

As I was driving home from that meeting. I reflected on something that Joey Mayer told me about her experience going door-to-door in Indiana House District 24. She shared her surprise at the number of people she’d talked to who said something along the lines of  “I thought I was one of the few Democrats in the county.” In a comment to that post, Paul Ogden wrote that he was baffled as to why people would say that.

The Democratic candidate in 2020 got nearly 41.9% of the vote in HD #24, which followed 41.6% in 2018. In 2014 and 2016, the Democrats did not even bother to field a candidate . You’ve seen a dramatic shift to Democratic Party in that district (and Hamilton County as a whole), which trend was accelerated by one Donald J. Trump.

Bottom line: in both cases, there are more of “us” (however defined) than we realize when people stay closeted.

When the first few people muster the courage to “come out,” it gives permission to their more timid compatriots to do the same. And that changes perceptions.

I’ve had emails from people in deep-Red rural areas of Indiana who share their discomfort with what they perceive to be their lonely political affiliation. Unlike residents of America’s obviously changing suburbia, I’m willing to concede that they live in areas where Democrats and pro-choice Republicans are relatively rare–but there’s really no way to tell, because many of the people who actually agree with those correspondents don’t vote. They don’t display yard signs. They don’t speak up. They stay in the closet, because the closet protects them from being criticized, attacked or cold-shouldered.

I can’t believe that “coming out” as a Democrat, or as a disaffected Republican, requires anything like the courage that coming out as gay required 25 years ago. I do believe that–if enough residents of Red areas came out against  MAGA Republicans –it would change the political calculus and generate votes from people who have previously been too dispirited to cast ballots.

I am convinced that there are more people than we realize looking at the GOP’s assaults on democracy and fundamental rights while wringing their hands and asking “what can I do about it?” The usual answer (it has certainly been mine) is: vote. But after the epiphany triggered by my recent conversation, I’ll add: “you can come out.”

Here’s my advice to all of you who–despite tending to agree with the opinions expressed on this blog–have kept quiet out of fear of evoking hostile reactions: Put out an unexpected yard sign. Post support for a Democrat or two on Facebook. Disagree (politely, of course) when your neighbor makes a nasty crack about the “libtards.”

Be authentically who you are. Leave the closet. You won’t just be liberating yourself; you’ll be sending a very important message to more people than you think.

The following paragraph was originally written for LGBTQ folks, but I’ve changed the language so that it applies to political rather than sexual orientation:

Coming out is often an important psychological step for liberal and moderate people. Research has shown that feeling positively about one’s political orientation and integrating it into one’s life fosters greater well-being and mental health. This integration often involves disclosing one’s identity to others; it may also entail participating in Democratic politics.  Being able to discuss one’s politics with others also increases the availability of social support, which is crucial to mental health and psychological well-being.

Come on, you timid Democrats and pro-choice, still-sane Republicans. You can do this! You’ll feel better and–even more significantly– you’ll be offering important encouragement to others!

 

23 thoughts on “Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

  1. Speaking your truth is essential to one’s health and happiness. It’s your secrets that keep you sick.

    There’s been a longstanding credo that we shouldn’t talk about politics or sex, or other “taboo” topics. That’s bs.

    We impose a personal jail-dom when we allow others to stifle our conversations. My mother was a champion at “hushing” people for speaking their truth because it might upset someone.

    If I remember, MLK often talked about the silent majority who kept quiet about civil rights so as not to cause any waves. Their silence allowed unspeakable injustices, which I am sure caused them feelings of guilt (self inflicted jail-dom).

    I don’t even bother going to reunions anymore because they are all MAGA fans or silent endorsers of bigotry. No thanks.

  2. This is awesome! In Huntington County we have been able (because of our amazing county chair and our young dems chair) to be able to field over 20 democrats on the ballot this year. We are creating excitement but all of those closeted democrats are going to have to come out and vote for us in order for a change to be made. I’m going to share today’s blog post with our group.

  3. What we really need is for voters to “come out “ as Americans. The parties are a root cause of our declining democracy.

  4. You think democrats are the only ones in the closet? Latinos are “coming out” and breaking big for the Republicans – this especially affects FL, TX, AZ and NV. Most likely AZ and NV will flip to Republican senators.

  5. im amazed,but, NoDak has a population that is hole deep in who has lived here for gens. though i catch a voice of a liberal, now and then,the 99% is here to stay. seldom do i get a kickback that aligns with any liberal item. though, i still dont know what lever they pull. i do however make the case on whos side the red politician is really supporting. getting the mainstream to under stand in farm country where a trump flag is in nearly every yard(shreaded at times, but visable of the cheap material) the idea was to make waste on the person,over what a liberal society brings to their buisnesses. their still pissed that you cant hire someone to do farm/ranch work for $6 bucks an hour,16 hours a day, and they want to feel the worker made money…instead thier profits go to every aspect of who they buy from and sell to.. leaving them in debt constantly. those who have sucked the land up to gain a advantage over new start ups(that will never happen) are the ones who will only sell when they die,leaving the auction to sell off to another well off property owner. except now were on the cusp of corprate farming,starting at the family end,,big land owners.(actully,the bank is holding the note,they have decided who gets what)the trickle down of the farm protection by the gov during covid, allowed the locals here to get average,$100 per acre. as a trump payoff as they see it.. now they are convinced trump will save their red ass.. its corprate farming coming,and mnuchin is seizing the moment. if the right gets back in,then a whole segment of farming and ranching will go corp,and public offerings. again,profits minded for those who have more than they need.and more to pay at the family level.
    im conviced, that wall street has determined how much a worker is worth. the fact we got some crumbs in the wage sector, wall street has demanded that percentage into their pocket,pronto. hense, are we demanded by moneied sect to be left next to poverty at the demands for profits?
    no one here in NoDak have a clue about a windfall profits tax. and theres no republicans even talking about one. but they can blame the liberals for everything they see as a wedge to seperate the BS..when they dont stand on a platform of anything for the ones who do the work. i find talking about that platform garners a better conversation over rights to speak (bigotry)of how someone smells or looks like..
    one item, Massachusettes just got a few workers they need,hopefully they get to help and keep them. desantis may have really helped the labor needs there. send more asshole..
    best wishes.

  6. As a trans woman who was in the closet for my first 42 years, this is a subject dear to my heart. Ialso know that people are in the closet about many things. Chronic illnesses. Mental illnessses. POC who pass as white, although in this case the benefits may outway the stress. Disabilities when they can be hidden (differently abled is not long considered appropriate, as it lets those who are not disabled off the hook for helping to increase accessibility). Being a parent or other relative of an LGBT, disabled, etc. person. And of course politics. Hamilton and Hendricks are the fastestest and second fastest growing counties in the state. Btownsburg in 1990 had 7000 people. In 2000 it was 14,000, 2010, 21,000, and 2020 over 28,000. Most of those people are young adults, colllege educated, starting families, and they are way more often than not socially liberal. Much of the Hendricks County population still think Hendricks County is very conservative. West of Danville it still is, but most of the population is east of Danvile. The county is now also roughly 18 percent non-white.

  7. I hope for a Blue Wave; I support D’s with money and put up yard signs. So many times I have been disheartened by the number of D’s who don’t show up to vote, and the Blue Wave turns into a trickle, so I am not going to get my hopes up for the mid-terms, but still, hope persists. I hope to be surprised.

  8. I agree, Lester. It will take Democrats or Socialists to come out to educate the populace about programs and policies that impacts the 99% because that is the issue.

    We’ll not get anywhere if we elect another Democrat who simply complies with the HQ or their local labor board.

    We need impactful candidates willing to speak the truth about the corruption in the political parties and media. The railroad workers were just sold out by Biden, the two labor unions, and the media. The so-called tentative agreement doesn’t exist and won’t be placed in written format for 3-4 weeks. Meanwhile, the labor unions agreed there would be no strikes.

    That is collusion to prevent workers from taking action in their best interests. What’s pathetic is the railroad workers in Britain were told they couldn’t strike because a monarch had died. WTH?

    Workers are doing the right thing by turning to the socialists for help. Marx told capitalists what would happen. It almost happened in the 30s, but FDR saved capitalism. We don’t have the leadership in Washington to prevent it from happening today.

  9. Right on cue…Chris Hedges writes:

    “The ruling oligarchs are terrified that, for tens of millions of people, the economic dislocation caused by inflation, stagnant wages, austerity, the pandemic and the energy crisis is becoming unendurable. They warn, as Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and NATO Secretary GeneraJens Stoltenberg, have done, about the potential for social unrest, especially as we head towards winter.

    Social unrest is a code word for strikes — the one weapon workers possess that can cripple and destroy the billionaire class’s economic and political power. Strikes are what the global oligarchs fear most. Through the courts and police intervention, they will seek to prevent workers from shutting down the economy. This looming battle is crucial. If we begin to chip away at corporate power through strikes, most of which will probably be wildcat strikes that defy union leadership and anti-union laws, we can begin to regain agency over our lives.”

    https://chrishedges.substack.com/p/strike-strike-strike

  10. When I was a kid, I’d often hear my mom say, “there’s nothing lonelier than a Democrat in Kansas.” She did that as a way to help others come out of the political closest, I think. So many people in our world think and vote Republican from habit. Little did she know that sentiment helped her rural Kansas gay daughter be comfortable coming out of the closet when it was time. Or…maybe she did know. 🙂
    Thanks for this one Sheila.

  11. The world changes. Many would prefer that it didn’t but reality ignores human wants. While we, essentially, created many of the changes due to our overwhelming numbers and technology and collective liberal nature, I did not, they were imposed on me by others. Others imposing on me rob me of my freedom to live as I want to. Democracy should prevent that, no?

    Well, not if the changes extend the freedoms I’ve always had to others who deserve to live as I always have.

    Here we have an arbiter for changes like that. The Constitution specifies the extent that our government can manage the situation by determining exactly what my rights to live free are and what can be legislated to prevent me from imposing on the rights of others. The laws can impose on us (as all criminals know) but are limited to being Constitutional.

    That’s liberal democracy.

    Because of our reluctance to accept changes brought about by us collectively, that our Constitution has always aspired to, the legitimacy of our liberal democracy and therefore our Constitution is being called into question. One of the first clues was the election of Donald Trump leading to the January 6th insurrection.

    Some of us are revolting individually about what we brought about collectively. We are chasing our own tails.

  12. Pete, you’ll like this quote from Chris’s article (link above) about the labor organizers in the early 1900s:

    “The earlier generation of labor organizers understood that union organizing was about class war. “Big” Bill Haywood told delegates at the founding convention of the IWW in 1905:

    Fellow Workers, this is the Continental Congress of the working-class. We are here to confederate the workers of this country into a working-class movement that shall have for its purpose the emancipation of the working-class from the slave bondage of capitalism. The aims and objects of this organization shall be to put the working-class in possession of the economic power, the means of life, in control of the machinery of production and distribution, without regard to capitalist masters.”

    #BOOM

  13. Too many of us don’t understand that rights come with duties. Primary among those is the duty to vote.

  14. Isn’t it all about behavior?

    Folks getting mad about issues that they Have strong opinions about. Unfortunately, Those who consider themselves liberals or progressives Try to manipulate the discussion In a way That makes themselves look superior and more enlightened, but in general, They are just pushing a specific ideal without really investigating commentary that goes against their preconceived and pre-formed personal opinions.

    As I recall on this particular blog, I posted Many issues that were on the gay pride website! I thought it was very enlightening, And then, all of the so-called enlightened individuals had a complete conniption and it turned extremely confrontational and derogatory. A website that promotes a way of thinking and ideology that certain individuals support because of family issues or whatever, and They hate The wording of that particular website.

    That being said, coming out and being who you are is a choice , and, It really is nobody’s business! how one chooses to live their life as long as it’s within civil law, then, So be it! in politics and in personal life, Everyone In a supposed democracy has a right to choose left or right , up or down, gay or straight, or whatever. individuals even have the right to be hypocrites, or liars, or boot lickers for that matter. Just don’t try and pawn it off on intellectual wokeness or some superior dismissive mindset!

    Look at the number of religious zealots who criticize the gay community because they’re living the life they choose, Then you find out that those who are criticizing are also gay. It’s almost like self-hatred, The reason, “I will go after my brethren Because I don’t like who I am! So I will slam everyone who I can consider like me.”

    Then you have a community of individuals Who will not change their personal behavior to stop the spread of disease , also on the pride website! But those same individuals will complain about the rapid spread of disease down to this day and I’m referring to HIV and the burgeoning monkeypox epidemic. 2 to 4% in the general population, but 50 to 57% in the gay community. So, Who’s to blame for the spread? those who are purposefully infecting others? Or those who refuse to change their personal habits, or, is it science that is not working fast enough to find some sort of a cure, that way those habits don’t have to be changed.

    People have to take responsibility for their practices and personal habits. Is it okay to for self-gratification and spontaneity at the risk of infecting someone else? Or, should an individual be concerned about that other life as a living human being and Do everything possible not to harm them whether it’s giving them a disease or shooting them with a pistol. Love your neighbor? Don’t see much of that at all. I see a lot of excuses and finger planting but very little responsibility.

  15. Well done! 👏👏👏

    I posted the link to this blog as a reply to one of Destiny Wells tweets today (she’s running for IN Secretary of State against an election denying MAGA-fascist Republican who cannot hold down a job, even in the military).

    Her campaign message is similar but complementary to this. She sees Indiana as a purple state with a low voter turnout rate. She’s not wrong.

  16. Becky, I am also skeptical of your claim. However, the point is that I believe that most people (although the margin may not be as high as I’d like) in the USA are sane. EVERYONE should come out in this way.

  17. Democrat candidates need to find issues that the rural (no college degrees) hoosiers care about. Since a high school degree is worthless unless the student is going to college or has taken career training. How about a class to start your own business, all the paper work, rules, licences, pitfalls that a person would run into. Teach management classes, how to hire, let go, treat employees, how to ne a effect manager and employee. Math classes that are tied to the retail, restaurant and any businesses where employees that only hold high school degrees.

  18. There was a time when I lived in Hamilton County that the only representative I had was Barack Obama. From school board through state representatives to federal, the only D on my ballot was the President, bless his soul. I truly did feel like the only Dem in Hamilton County. I left.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *