Why Coming Out Stories Still Matter

Charlie CarverActor Charlie Carver, known for roles on “Teen Wolf,” “The Leftovers” and “Desperate Housewives,” recently came out in a moving series of Instagram posts.

He wrote, “As a young boy, I knew I wanted to be an actor. I knew I wanted to be a lot of things! It was around that age that I also knew, however abstractly, that I was different from some of the other boys in my grade. Over time, this abstract ‘knowing’ grew … ending in a climax of saying three words out loud: ‘I am gay.’

“I said them to myself at first, to see how they felt. They rang true, and I hated myself for them. I was twelve. It would take me a few years before I could repeat them to anyone else …”

As he earned work in Hollywood, Carver struggled with the industry’s intrusions on his personal life. For a time, he thought he could live two separate lives.

Then he realized that wasn’t going to work.

The Instagram image that inspired Charlie Carver to come out.
The Instagram image that inspired Charlie Carver to come out.

He said, “Let the record show this –  I self-identify as gay … As a young man, I needed a young man in Hollywood to say that – and without being a dick about it, I owe it to myself, more than anything, to be who I needed when I was younger.”

While Charlie’s twin brother Max, who is straight, and former “Desperate” co-stars Felicity Huffman and Dana Delany voiced their support, keyboard warriors around the Internet put down their grape sodas and Cheetos and felt a call to arms.

“He should have stayed in the closet,” grumped one reader on People.com.

On Facebook, one critic announced: “Who gives a flying crap? … Hollyweird hits again.”

Another said, “Attention disorder is what im (sic) calling it. Will council (sic) if you need help getting you (sic) life back on track.”

I haven’t paid much attention to coming out stories in the longest time, but I was struck by Charlie’s honesty. I came out before Ellen, before Elton, hell, I came out before man discovered fire, it seems on some days. When I came out, NBC’s “Today” covered Pride parades by training its cameras on men with purses and Jerry Falwell was making millions by warning Americans the gays were destroying society. When I came out, I had never even met another gay person (so I believed). I lost a few people who mattered to me, but staying in the closet was not an option.

My family, for the most part, took the news in stride, but I can still recall the comments from certain relations.

“I would love you if you were a murderer,” one said.

Really? That’s the comparison?

More than a couple urged: “Just don’t talk about it.”

I’ve lost job opportunities for being out. In 1998, about a block from my newspaper, I was gaybashed by a stranger who bragged about how he wanted to kill a queer.

And I’ve always understood this: Coming out was the best gift I ever gave myself. I’ve met the most amazing, kindest people and had some incredible adventures in my life, and I can say I’ve walked in my truth, and I wouldn’t change that for anything. Time is so fleeting – I’ve learned that the hard way in the last year – why would anyone want to spend it pretending they were something they weren’t?

Some argue that we’re living in a “post-gay” world, whatever that means, since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the nation. Look closer: In more than half the states, LGBT people have zero employment protections.

They can get married on a Sunday and fired on a Monday.

A new survey of homeless youth in Washington, D.C., reveals that almost half the young people on the streets identify as LGBT.

CCarver2About 27 state legislatures, including those in Georgia, Florida, Arizona, Nebraska and Wisconsin, are considering so-called “religious freedom” bills that would allow business owners to deny services to gay people. When I read about these bills, I wonder what kind of America would actually codify discrimination. Here’s a simple solution: If you’re in business, treat everyone equally and you’ll discover everybody’s cash is just as green. If you can’t do that, why are you in business?

But the more people come out, the more politicians and shop owners and mechanics and teachers can’t deny they know someone who is gay. The more sons and daughters who come out, the more we will be recognized for what we are: family.

You can bet somewhere right now there’s a teenager hiding, afraid, unable to imagine talking to his conservative parents. And he’s on Instagram, reading Charlie Carver’s journey, surviving on that hope. Charlie Carver’s story is an example of how a life can be led authentically and well.

Every voice matters.


3 thoughts on “Why Coming Out Stories Still Matter

  1. Pingback: Gay Football Coach “Owns It” | The Body's Heated Speech

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