I am thrilled to introduce a very talented author, Stella Duffy, as my guest this week.
I’ve written twelve novels (including the five novels of the mystery series featuring lesbian PI Saz Martin, Mouths of Babes is also published by Bywater), more than forty short stories, eight plays, and many articles and features. I also still work in theatre, where I started as an actor, now more often directing.
My latest novel is Theodora; Actress, Empress, Whore which will be published in the US by Penguin this September. It’s my first historical fiction, based on the life of the late Roman/early Byzantine Empress Theodora who ruled with Emperor Justinian from 527 to 548 AD. Though it is based in as much fact as I could find, the very little amount of verifiable information about Theodora, means I’ve had a great time creating characters, as well as fleshing out those from history.
In addition to my writing and theatre work, I’m involved with several LGBT organizations in the UK – our major, mainstream campaigning organization Stonewall (http://www.stonewall.org.uk/), and most recently Diversity Role Models (http://diversityrolemodels.wordpress.com/), a charity engaged in taking positive gay role models into schools to counter homophobic bullying.
My novel Parallel Lies, published by Bywater Books, deals very much with the secrets and lies, the machinations involved in NOT coming out, in this case in that most closed closets of all, Hollywood. I’m delighted to say that this year it’s won a Bronze IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Award), and was shortlisted for a LAMBDA Literary Award in the Lesbian Mystery category – entirely down to Bywater’s brilliance in bringing it out for a US market (it came out in the UK in 2005), and in selling it so well in the US.
This is a piece I wrote for my own blog a year or so ago, sharing my views on coming out. I hope it encourages some of you, and pats others on the back for the work you’ve been doing on behalf of all of us for so long. I know it’s a strong piece with a tough tone, but don’t you sometimes get a little tired of being nice and asking politely for change? Sometimes don’t you just want to yell? I know I do ...
Just recently, I met someone who was telling me it was too hard to tell her fifteen year old daughter she was gay, so she was just ‘letting her daughter get to know her partner first’ – yes, well, that’ll help the daughter to know that honesty and being up-front is valuable in her life. I met someone else who told me ‘everyone knows’ she’s gay, except her Great-Gran. Great-Gran would be delighted to know she doesn’t count as ‘everyone’, I’m sure. And, of course, we all know those who are successful in their careers and doing really well who don’t want to rock any boats …
Sigh. And Grrrr.
Because actually, I do want to rock some boats. I do want to say – stop it! Get over yourselves! Take some responsibility and get on with it.
I know a brilliant 19-year-old who is out at college and living with her girlfriend and whose dad says part of her ease with her sexuality is to do with her knowing Shelley and I. (Which means, of course, that part of her ease with her sexuality is because we were out and her parents were out about us, and NONE OF US, even when she was much younger, behaved as if this whole gay thing is a problem. Which now enables her to live her own life on her own terms, making a difference in other people’s lives.)
Because it isn’t actually a problem for most of us in (most of) the West at this end of the 21st century, not a real problem, if we don’t buy into the secrecy and the lying and hiding and the untruths. (And yes, I do think omission is the same as commission.)
There are though, many places where it really is hard to be gay. Impossible. Illegal. Punishable by death.
And I am sick of making it better for other people. Tired of my actions and my honesty and my openness slowly but surely making it safer for other people to come out. It wasn’t easy for me and it wasn’t easy for anyone else I know, there are still times on a regular basis when it still isn’t easy, so why the hell do those of you who aren’t out get to wait until we’ve fixed it all for you?
I am really tired of my straight friends who’ve had one or two gay experiences not being out about them. (And enormously proud of my straight friend who has happily told her teenage daughters about her women lovers from the past.)
Mostly, I am tired of having to carry the burden* so that other people will have it better later on. Those other people who don’t have the courage to step up now. Those other people who aren’t using the great gifts given us by the very many who campaigned and organised and marched and fought before us – for us – in circumstances much harder than we have now. Who are failing to honour the massive struggles of our LGBT elders by continuing to hide.
No, it isn’t easy. But if we don’t, who will?
If we don’t all take responsibility to make it better here and now, wherever we are in the relatively-lucky West, then how are we ever going to make things better for our friends in those places where simply loving who you love is illegal/immoral/wicked?
We were born here and now by mere chance, we have the opportunity to make things better by choice.
So … here’s a thing :
If ‘everyone’ but your mother, father, sister, nana, grandad, boss, daughter, son, cousin, aunty, uncle, preacher, rabbi, imam, sensei, leader, teacher – you fill in the gap – if ‘everyone’ BUT them knows you’re out … then you’re not out. (And what on earth did they do to not deserve your honesty?)
* and I do it in a truly tiny way, I know this, there are so very many people working far harder to make things better day in day out than I am.
Causes Marianne Martin Supports
HRC, Michigan Equality, Gay & Lesbian Task Force, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, ASPCA, HSUS