One of the things I love about our community is that there’s no right or wrong way to be queer; the only criteria for membership is that you identify as LGBTQIA-plus. This itself can be a long and arduous process. We know we belong to the community, but not necessarily where or how.
Finding your tribe isn’t always easy, though. When I came out half a lifetime ago, part of me expected to find my tribe immediately. I didn’t. Most of us don’t. Many of us are still looking for our tribe. It takes time, some experimenting, and personal reflection to find what works best for you.
There isn’t a protocol for joining the community. Some of us choose to come out; some of us don’t. It seems there’s a bit of tension within the community when it comes to coming out. Some believe it’s best to come out to everyone all at once; others prefer to do so gradually on a case-by-case basis. Some of us are out but with a few exceptions: everyone but grandma; everyone except coworkers, etc. Those with an all-or-nothing approach sometimes look down on those who aren’t fully out, believing that they’re not committed to the community, which goes to show that you can’t please everyone. Instead, we have to do what’s best for us.
That’s what coming out is: it’s the moment we take ownership of our lives and decide to be the person we are instead of the person we’re supposed to be.. Coming out can strengthen relationships, destroy them, and everything in between. But coming out isn’t something we do for others; it’s something we do for ourselves. We accept ourselves and our differences and decide to live our best life, using our hearts as a compass to navigate a world that doesn’t always welcome change.
I’m reminded of a piece of advice dancer/choreographer Martha Graham once gave to a fellow choreographer who was doubting herself and her abilities. To paraphrase, Martha said that in all of time and in all the universe there will only ever be one you. That means that everything about you is a unique expression, a gift only you can give. If you choose not to share it, the world will never have your gift, and it will be lost forever. Therefore, our job is to keep ourselves open, to be our authentic selves, and contribute what we have to the world. It is only by doing this that the world grows, changes, and improves.
The world thrives on change and our community certainly plays a role in that. After all, if no one ever came out, was never true to themselves in their mannerisms and ways of expressing themselves, then nothing would have changed. We wouldn’t have a community and we certainly wouldn’t have civil rights.
Our community is a rejection of binaries, of this-or-that and black-or-white. Our community is a spectrum, a rainbow of all colors. Simply being a part of the community, whether we are visibly or invisibly a member to those outside looking in, reminds us and the world that so many of life’s structures are imaginary and we can live most any way we choose.
As we enter Pride season, remember Martha’s advice. There is only one you and yours is a gift only you can give the world. Don’t let that gift be wasted. Make your mark on the world and make this a better, more colorful place than it was before you came along. And, in doing so, you may find that you’ve created a tribe of your own.
- Brian George Hose has been an advocate for LGBTQ persons and issues all his adult life. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Shepherd University and looks forward to pursuing a Master's of Social Work with a focus in mental health. A former musician, Brian served as minister of music for New Light MCC for several years and incorporates music into social work practice. He lives in rural Western Maryland where he has amassed a sinful number of books, yarn, and books about yarn. He has been writing for Baltimore Out Loud since February 2016.