I had a flash, a vision so clear and definite, of a world in which no gay man or woman is imprisoned any longer in a closet, in which all are out and authentic and thriving. And you know what I saw, what I hadn't considered before? I saw not only how gay people themselves would benefit from such a reality--which I've commented on before--but also how the entire world would benefit, too. The bigger picture. I liked my glimpse of the bigger picture. It felt real and possible.
Think about it. What happens when an entire segment of our population--if we are to believe gay people make up 10% of our population, then we're talking 3.3 million gay people in Canada alone--is no longer suppressed, is no longer prevented, because of attitudes and religious prejudices and discrimination, from being themselves, from being the full human beings they were intended to be, from fully taking advantage of the special and unique talents and abilities they have? How would that benefit the individual gay man or woman on a personal level? How would that benefit our towns and cities, our country, our world?
At this very moment, a young gay man, not yet out, is at a crossroads, much as I was in 1977, when I graduated from high school; when I had the option of pursuing whatever line of work made my spirit soar, my heart sing; and when I consciously made the decision not to pursue anything that drew more attention to me for being gay than I'd already had. Hair styling was out. Interior design was out. Travel consultant was out. Fashion design was out. Pretty much anything creative was out, because these were lines of work women entered, not men, not real men, not self-respecting men, anyway.
Instead, I entered the banking profession, where I remained for twenty-eight years. Where, although I hit some awesome highs in my career, my spirit died a little every day because I wasn't doing what I really wanted to do. Because I didn't have a creative outlet. Because I couldn't work with hair or fabrics or color or paint or furniture or exotic locations or whatever. I chose comfort and safety and tradition. I chose what would fall under the radar. Back in the day, men had to. It was either that or face the possibility of odd stares, ridicule, insults, or worse.
Today, that young gay man at a crossroads wants to be a dancer more than anything in the world. Dance is his passion. It's what makes him feel alive. His spirit flies when he's on the dance floor. His whole being overflows with joy. He knows people appreciate his talent, experience magic when he performs. He loves bringing his passion and joy to them. It makes him feel good about himself. It makes him feel like he's making a contribution. He knows his life is on the right course.
But he also knows the reputation of men who enter the field of dance. He knows the uphill battle to be seen as a talented male dancer, and not as a talented gay male dancer. He knows how other men will look at him, judge him, think less of him. He wonders why sexual orientation plays a role in anything beyond who one loves, who one spends his life with, who one grows old with--and why anyone cares, anyway.
How many young, closeted, questioning or gay people, even today, make decisions they'll have to live with for the rest of their lives, based on needing to live up to their family's, friends's, church's, culture's, and country's expectations? How many of them don't have the courage to follow their hearts, their dreams, because they've heard the message they cannot be who they are? How many of them have the strength to battle everything that says you're not good enough as you are, you must be something else, and win?
How has everyone else, the rest of the population, lost out on what these fine young people have to offer when countless numbers turn their backs on who they are, who they were meant to be, what they are most passionate about, and decide it's simply easier to give in, not to fight the uphill battle, to make everyone else happy, not to upset the apple cart? How much dance goes undanced, how much design goes undesigned, how much beauty and innovation and creativity goes unrealized? How much worse off is our world as a result?
In my vision, not one gay man or woman is closeted, held back in any way because of sexual orientation. In my vision, every gay man and woman is exactly who he or she most passionately wants to be. In my vision, the entire world is transformed through accepting people for who they are, by encouraging one and all to live up to their fullest potential, by taking advantage of the energy and talent and creativity that remains undiscovered, ready to be shared at any moment.
This is only one small part of what I mean by, taking gay to the next level.