Good People Often Stay Closeted. Good People Sometimes Stay Silent.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 3.618% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Here’s the thing nobody denies: speaking out helps other people. Every time a gay person comes out, they help normalize “being gay” for other people. Every time a depressed person speaks openly about their struggle, they help to reduce the stigma of a crippling condition they didn’t ask to have. Every time someone smacks down racist or sexist talk in public, they help send the message that that kind of talk is not cool.
What few people mention is that those discussions help other people but may harm you.
We’ve all heard about the kid who came out as gay and his family disowned him. Someone openly admitting their mental health struggles can be passed over for promotions at work because, well, they’re crazy. Yelling at your friends for racist or sexist language can cost you friends – and it’s all well to go “Well, those aren’t the kinds of friends you should have!”, but that’s scant consolation when you’re lonely.
Speaking out hurts.
And yet there’s often this liberal narrative that good people burst out of the closet, muscles rippling, while these sad poisoned Gollum-like people stay within. If your game store is full of homophobic assholes, a good person would charge in there like a bull, call them on all their shit, face them down mano a mano until they bent underneath your herculean will!
What kind of weak asshole would just choose not to play at that store?
But here’s the truth: Speaking out helps other people, but protecting yourself is also a priority.
This does not make you a bad person.
Look: I’m openly polyamorous… now. But my wife and I were poly for several years before we acknowledged it on the Internets, and I’m not ashamed to say that we kept that shiz under wraps because we had two teenaged daughters who lived with their biological father. Maybe he’d be cool with our open marriage, or maybe he’d decide this was time to go to court to get the kids out of the hands of those perverts.
We had to weigh our desire to speak out against the very real cost of maybe not getting summer visits with our kids.
I don’t regret that choice one fucking bit. I regret not speaking out, of course. But in the end, it’s nice to do good by giving poly workshops and helping other poly couples feel represented and sharing my experiences… but I wouldn’t be able to do any of that anyway if I wasn’t able to talk to my kids, as I’d be too miserable to function.
Likewise, not everyone has the energy to fight grand battles at their schools or family meals or game stores – or even if they do, they don’t have the energy to fight every battle that comes along, because shit, you can grind yourself to dust grappling with every microaggression, and is it really worth the progress you’ll make if you destroy yourself along the way?
It’s not wrong to pick your battles. It’s not wrong to prioritize your own survival over forging paths for other people’s future benefits. You should fight wherever you can, of course, and don’t make the closeted gay Republican mistake of trashing your own people to fit in, but…
In the end, any good movement is about finding compassion. And we should celebrate the people who fight the good battles, because they make headway. But those stories all too often end like Christ Himself did, with some poor schmuck dying horribly and a weeping family and a legacy that only kicks into play years after the pain and the survivors have faded.
And your movement should be understanding enough to not view you as a soldier to be shot up in the front lines, but as a human with needs who deserves as much love and support as anyone else.
Your activism can be part-time, when you have the strength to do it. Not every combatant can be a warrior on the front lines; there should be room for guerrilla tactics, and spies, and even noncombatants who occasionally lend hugs to the people who need them.
You have to protect yourself so you can fight whenever you can, in whatever way you can. You might not be up for every battle. You might, in fact, be totally unable to fight some battles because you know that losing your kids or your parents or your social group is not something you can afford to do right now.
That’s okay. Protecting yourself does not make you a bad person.  Find the places where you can afford to make change, but don’t beat yourself up for not being able to be as “bold” as other people, because part of this journey is in finding your own strengths and learning how you can contribute even with the very real compromises that everyone has to make.
Just don’t give up.

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