“I’m gay, and always have been; even when I was David Jones.”
– declared David Bowie, the legendary British singer, songwriter and actor in an interview in 1972 following his December 1971’s release Hunky Dory.
This was a time when being homosexual or a transgender was invariably subjected to shameful criticism, hatred and even violence. The British parliament had decriminalized homosexuality in 1967, and the famous Stonewall incident in the United States was just three years ago.
Bowie was one of the earliest celebrity figures to come out openly in front of the media about his sexual orientation. He kind of set a milestone, which was then followed by a number of public personalities in the coming years.
And like celebrities have always influenced the lives of the common people, it is believed that the amount of love and support that these people still got amidst all the resentments was a huge encouragement for the youths of the generations.
“Coming out of the closet” – a term widely used throughout the world to signify the confession of an LGBTQ person to being one.
Given the amount of detestation towards the gays, lesbians and transgender people the world still witnesses, it is needless to say that the closet does seem like a very safe place.
There is always a fear of being unaccepted by the family, being avoided by the best of friends and as history bears witness, being mocked, ridiculed and shamed publicly. Even in the so-called progressive countries, a young lesbian woman or a gay man is a subject of fun and teasing in high schools or colleges, even offices in some cases.
In India, the picture is far less complicated. Here a majority of people simply have no idea of what being an LGBTQ person even means and considers it to be a ‘condition’ that can definitely be cured.
All these can very well push a person to the farthest corner of every closet. But the closed doors upon one’s true identity and self-acceptance can be reassuring only for a while, and sooner or later the darkness and suffocation catch up.
It is no doubt that the first step out of it is a big one and to be honest, needs a whole lot of courage. But people who have been there, done that say that the second step takes a little bit less, and the third step even lesser.
So it is necessary for all the LGBTQ people out there to begin with opening the door a slight bit ajar; and what is even more necessary is not to close it again because of something negative being said or done. They are not alone, and they have even more reason to come out now than ever.
If the number of pride parades and rainbow festivals around the world and in the major cities of India is not an assurance enough, one can always look up to these celebrities who dared to take the step, and fortunately, we have not failed many of them in the recent past.
Singer, actor and author Ricky Martin came out in 2010 via a letter he posted on his website.
Canadian actress Ellen Page came out publicly at a Human Rights Campaign conference in 2014.
Professional American basketball player Jason Collins came out in 2013 after becoming a free agent in the NBA.
One of the brightest examples of our time is the coming out story of popular TV actress, comedian and host Ellen Degeneres. The entire LGBT community of the world unanimously agrees that as a female screen personality, this required a lot of strength way back in 1997, or as the ex-president of the United States said while presenting her with the Presidential Medal for Freedom in November, 2016 for the same, it must have required a huge amount of courage.
She admitted to being bullied in her profession for coming out of the closet on world television, on Oprah Winfrey’s show. But she got a whole lot of love too from her peers and fans. Now she is happily married with another famous face, who took a same kind of step in 2005 – Portia de Rossi.