PROULX: Enough millennial moaning about coming out
Shaun Proulx has had enough of the moaning about coming from young people. Maybe try doing it in Nepal, like the photo above, or Saudi Arabia. GETTY
SHAUN PROULX/ 24 HOURS
Wow did my blood boil upon reading a new survey suggesting there are a lot of LGBTQ+ people in Canada reluctant to come out. Online questionnaires were sent to 2,697 people 15 and older (how much older isn't stated); 1,897 of them identified as LGBT. Which means in gay math: 13% of respondents identified as LGBTQ+, which is far higher than the 3% cited by StatsCanada. "Reluctant?" Are you kidding me?
Why? Because they now have the best circumstances than anyone before them in the history of civilization? Because they live in the finest country in the world in which to come out? Canada's track record where human rights and equal rights for LGBTQ+ is frankly, astonishing. Would The Reluctants prefer to live in one of the 72 countries where they are legally allowed to be murdered or imprisoned for being gay?
The study, released Wednesday - commissioned on behalf of the Fondation Jasmin Roy, a Quebec organization committed to fighting bullying, discrimination and violence against children - says fear of rejection or bullying is what leads The Reluctants to stay in the closet: 54% said they didn't come out to their work colleagues, while 45% kept it from their classmates.
Fear of rejection is the heartbeat of the coming out process. Sorry, sweethearts, but that's just part of your journey and you should be honoured to take it, scary though it may be. Everyone who came out before you has had to deal and in far less ideal circumstances. I came out to my mother last (at 27!) shaking over the phone because I was so horribly afraid I'd lose her love. I did not lose it, but whether you are rejected or not, the guaranteed reward is the new fuller version of you, one who is now authentic, and authenticity never steers you wrong.
Bullying, the social phenomenon, is the other fear The Reluctants are said to have. It certainly isn't new, it just has hashtags and entire online movements and support groups around it today. Every day, for each year I was in high school, I would get off the yellow school bus on a dusty road in rural Ontario and pop cans would fly at me, I'd have to climb over the limbs of kids trying to trip me as they screeched "F-got," telling me to fellate my father, trying to rip my shirt, and once I made it off, the bus windows would drop down and kids would spit on me.
And the next day, I'd have to get on the bus and it would happen again. There was no one to talk to, no Internet, no gay schools, no support groups, no PFLAG (Parents Families and Friends Of Gays And Lesbians) no Ellen or Will & Grace, no celebrity coming out every day, seemingly, as LGBTQ+. Bullying didn't change once I got to the big city, either. In my 20s, in the gay village in Toronto, I had paint bombs shot at me from a car. Before I was hired for my last role in finance, my future boss was warned by a trader: "You know that guy you want to hire is a F-got, right?" I've even been called the F-word on Pride Day. Do The Reluctants even have any knowledge of their gay history? Great progress has happened, making the past for anyone my age or older unrecognizable. I feel no pity for anyone in Canada still in the closet.
They have no right; shame on them. My generation of gay men not only had to come out when Canadian society was far less open, evolved, accepting and supportive than it is now, but we had to come out with the spectre of AIDS looming over us; everyone around us like us was dying. Gay was a word laughed at, the joke went that 'gay'stood for Got AIDS Yet? Today's closeted folk are in fear?
Try adding in fear of sex, fear of love, fear of your sexual identity, fear every time you caught a cold. My beautiful friend Tim was diagnosed in his early 20s with HIV - 30 years ago when you always ended up dead - but kept a full-time job and studied dance in the evenings. He and I and the rest of any gay men over 45 today have grown up with hardly any gay male role models. We lost our leaders, lovers and friends; we were at funerals on a regular basis.
We were, just for being gay, branded as disease-carrying potential murderers by haters, and yet, even though we were but boys, we dreamed of a better life and we had the balls to fight for it, for ourselves and for the generation to come. We now live in the life we dreamed and fought for, one The Reluctants benefit from mightily.
To think that this next generation, whose turn it is to proudly claim and own who they are, but are "reluctant" to makes me ill. Is this the result of all those pandering parents who raised a generation of entitled youth in feathered nests? The study did survey those 15 and "older," which means it likely includes adults with hopefully a few more tools and a stronger sense of who they are and so for the life of me, I cannot imagine why they'd want to stay living a lie, a toxic choice if ever.
The study says 73% strongly or somewhat believe much more needs to be done to combat homophobic behaviour and bullying of the community. OK then, away you go, Reluctants. Do not look to or wait for others to do your heavy lifting. Make what you want to see happen (which you can't do from within your closet, by the way). And get this: A University of New Brunswick researcher says a new survey drops a bombshell on us - the younger generation is not enjoying a fun sex life!
According to the AP: "Fredericton university psych professor Lucia O'Sullivan claims that more than three-quarters of young men and women struggle with bad sex lives - with one or more 'persistent and distressing'problems in sexual functioning. The survey of more than 400 young people aged 16 to 21 in New Brunswick found 79% of young men and 84% of young women reported sexual problems over a two-year period." My friend Harry came out years ago at 57.
He had a wife and two kids and spent his whole life never acknowledging his truth. I saw him shortly after he finally came out and he was a brand new man. His feet barely touched the ground. He was free and happy. That's what The Reluctants are denying themselves, however old they are, as they sit in their pity party. Enjoy yourselves, but you've got no sympathy coming from me. I'm saving mine for the generation after you.
The Shaun Proulx Show's #SummerOfYes series airs on SiriusXM Canada Talks channel 167 through September. He is the publisher of TheGayGuideNetwork.com and leads a #ThoughtRevolution about busting through personal limits on ShaunProulx.com