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Coming out is hard enough without being told how to do it and how to act afterwards

Life is full of little surprises that sometimes feel like an ambush. Like when you realize you’re gay or transgender. What do you do now?

patti dawn swansson

Coming out is seldom, if ever, easy.

It’s like there are two of you, one sitting on each shoulder, and both are engaged in push-me-pull-you mental gymnastics that can be crippling, if not paralyzing.

The positive of the two yous is determined to push you out of the closet, trying to sway you with comforting assurances that family, friends, co-workers, classmates and everyday acquaintances will welcome and embrace the gay you with inviting arms and adoring smiles.

“It’ll be safe,” she whispers. “You have nothing to worry about. You’ll be free and the world will finally see the true you. They’ll love you.”

Yet, just as you are about to step out, the other you pulls you back with words of caution, if not scare tactics: “Leave this closet,” she says, waving a red flag, “and you will be rejected, degraded, humiliated, bullied, sullied and maybe even beaten up. Is that what you really want your life to become?”

It is as I have written: Discovering yourself is the interesting part, accepting yourself is the hard part, revealing yourself is the frightening part that goes bump in the night.

It would be helpful, of course, were there a How-To Manual for Coming Out. We could simply turn to the appropriate chapter and, presto, we’re out and we’re proud gay, lesbian and transgender women, men and children. Life goes on tickety-boo. Except it isn’t quite as simple as picking up a copy of Popular Mechanics to learn how to change the oil on your SUV.

There is no right way to come out. There is no wrong way, either, although my personal experience taught me that the right and wrong of coming out is very much left to interpretation.

I advised those closest to me in a lengthy late-night email and, as I was to discover from a dear friend who has since basically disappeared from my life, it was callous, insensitive, hurtful and ill-timed. How dare I not advise her before all others, and how thoughtless of me to dump such naked honesty on her when she was dealing with her own level of personal strife.

“We had a special relationship,” she reminded me in an accusatory tone a number of years later, at our first get-together after the fact. “You should have told me first.”

“We have to do this in our own way and on our own timetable,” I tried to explain in an unflinching way that, I suppose, might have come across as clinical and unfeeling. “Each of us is different. We find our own way. We feel when the time is right, so we do it and expect the worst but hope for the best.”

Is there an element of selfishness in all that. By definition, absolutely. You are foremost and uppermost. Yet you also acknowledge that others might be wounded, which only adds more uncertainty to the original, push-me-pull-you pile of confusion.

It doesn’t end there, either.

Now that you’re out, are you supposed to behave and talk a certain way? That is, do you now immerse yourself into the gay collective and become a mouthpiece and advocate for the gay rights cause? Or do you simply go about the business of being you? Again, that’s an individual choice.

Shawn Barber

This past April, world champion and Olympic pole vaulter Shawn Barber came out in 54 words on his Facebook page. He was gay and he was proud. Nothing more to see here. Let’s move on.

“A person has the right to say as little or as much as they want about their orientation,” observed Jim Buzinski on the website Outsports.

Agreed.

But wait. Here we are three months later and the other main scribe at Outsports, Cyd Zeigler, has scolded Barber, who, at the recent Canadian track and field championships, told the Toronto Star that his being gay is “something that shouldn’t be a big deal.”

“Declaring to the world that you’re gay—even if it was in desperately early morning hours—then going into hiding is hardly the behavior of a champion,” Zeigler wrote in a gratuitous bullying, attack piece. “Barber, instead, has cringed. For whatever reason, he has decided that the whole ‘gay thing’ isn’t a necessary part of his identity as an athlete. So he’s pulled back. He’s stayed silent. No, even worse, he has belittled his own coming out.”

Zeigler has since softened his stance and rewritten the article, but his original remarks make it abundantly clear that Barber has let down the team, so to speak, and they serve as a classic example of not only a writer going well over the line of fairness in commentary but also of gays eating their own.

Coming out is hard enough and Shawn Barber is doing it his way, same as Zeigler did it his way and I did it my way. Expecting us to be anything more than who we are is not only unfair, it flies in the face of what gays desire more than anything from society—to be accepted for who we are.


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Ol’ Maggie Court’s crazy ramblings a reminder that the LGBT collective still has plenty of work to do

Margaret Court says tennis “is full of lesbians.” As if that’s a bad thing.

patti dawn swansson

Moreover, ol’ Maggie informs us that there were a couple of devil lesbians on the professional tennis circuit back in her day and, get this, they would take young players to parties. Imagine that. Young women partying. With lesbians. The horrors.

Ol’ Maggie has been saying a whole lot of oddball things lately and, if we are to believe the preacher lady from the Land of Oz, civilization is caught in the grip of a global plot orchestrated by the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender collective. Those pesky gays are stealing the minds of our children, don’t you know?

“That’s what Hitler did, that’s what communism did—got the mind of children,” she advises us. “And it’s a whole plot in our nation and in the nations of the world to get the minds of the children.”

Hmmm. Kind of reminds me of what the Roman Catholic Church tried to do to me when I was a sprig.

The nuns, when not whacking us on the knuckles with a yardstick, would regale us with far-out tales of fantasy gardens, poisonous fruit, hell fires, voodoo antics like turning the rib of a man into a woman and, best of all, talking snakes in a magical tree. Their stories were better than anything we watched on The Wonderful World of Disney. But apparently Margaret Court believes all the Bible-based, brainwashing blarney that my receptive mind was force-fed, and it’s quite clear that the great Australian tennis champion is convinced that gay and (especially) transgender people are the spawn of Satan.

“That’s all the devil,” she says of transgender kids.

Ol’ Maggie Court

Poor, ol’ Maggie. There’s just no escaping conniving gay men and (especially) lesbians. We’re always shoving ourselves in her face, so to speak. Why, it’s gotten so bad that she can’t even travel hither and yon on Qantas anymore because the airline’s CEO, Alan Joyce, is a gay man who, not surprisingly, promotes same-sex marriage, which is, in the world according to Maggie, “alternative, unhealthy, unnatural.” The right to wed is “not theirs to take.”

“I believe marriage as a union between a man and a woman as stated in the Bible,” she harrumphs.

Well, it’s about your Bible, Maggie: One person’s truth is another’s fiction.

The prune-faced preacher lady has been battered fore and aft for her Bible-thumping bleatings, which included a disapproving and extremely tacky tsk-tsking of Aussie tennis pro Casey Dellacqua and her partner Amanda Judd following the birth of the lesbian couple’s second child, a joyous event that Court greeted with “sadness” because the newborn has two mamas and zero papas.

I’d rather not join the Maggie-bashing chorus, though, because I think she’s unwittingly done the gay community a small favor.

The hell, you say. How can that be so?

Well, to be clear, I find her drawing a parallel between the LGBT collective and a mass murderer, Adolph Hitler, repugnant. It is not only offensive in the extreme, it shows she clearly has lost both the plot and the argument. She appears to be totally off her nut. But…I also think ol’ Maggie has provided us with a reminder, albeit appalling—at the top of Pride Month, no less—that we still have work to do. The fight for acceptance and equality continues. It has not been won. We must keep society’s feet to the fire.

I suppose we really shouldn’t care what comes out of this nutter’s mouth, but Court is a legendary sportswoman. No one has matched her two dozen tennis Grand Slam singles titles. One of the playing venues at the Australian Open in Melbourne is named in her honor (for now). And she is a pastor (the argument could be made that she’s more of a cult leader given that she created her own church, the Victory Life Centre in Perth). Thus, her voice carries some degree of heft. If not, the pushback from gay, transgender and, indeed, straight people against her homo/transphobic tripe wouldn’t be so robust.

I’ll just say this about that: Freedom of speech is a beautiful thing, but so is the freedom to shut the hell up. Ol’ Maggie might want to give that a try.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m stepping out to party with some lesbian tennis players.


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Paparazzi Nightclub: Accusations of owners’ racism are unfounded and out of line

I’ve often wondered why the stewards of Paparazzi Nightclub haven’t bolted the doors to their downtown Victoria venue and never looked back.

patti dawn swansson

patti dawn swansson

I mean, we all have a breaking point, right?

Were it I who held the keys to the kingdom, I believe being branded a racist or racially insensitive would be a breaking point. Being told that I’m hosting what “sounds like” a white supremist night and “at best the whole thing reeks of white privilege and a colossal amount of ignorance on your part” would probably be a breaking point. Especially when you plop that atop the steaming pile of ridicule, accusation, false innuendo, malicious gossip and guilt-tripping that has built up over eight-plus years.

But no. Attila Bassett and Terry Bex are still there, opening the doors to Paparazzi seven days a week to provide the local gay community a safe space to express and be themselves.

Those doors will be open on the final day of Pride Week 2016, July 10, for what originally was billed as White Party, whereby patrons are encouraged to attire themselves in white. It has nothing—repeat, nothing—to do with the hue of one’s skin. Trust me, if anyone were to arrive adorned in a white sheet and a pointy, white hood with the letters KKK scrawled above a pair of crudely cut-out eyeholes, they’d be summarily dismissed. And the cops would be summoned.

That reality notwithstanding, toxic, acidic words like “racist” and “white supremist” and “Trump supporters” and “culturally insensitive” and “tone deaf” have been flung about like so much confetti at a wedding. All aimed at Bassett and Bex.

Some among the loud, vocal minority believe any event with the word “white” in the title is too soon after the Orlando massacre, where 49 gay men and women, most of them Latino, were slaughtered in an unparalleled gun attack on America and the LGBT collective. To some, Paparazzi ownership didn’t gauge the temperature of the LGBT community correctly. To others, their reading is accurate. But how soon is too soon? Who gets to decide if one month of grieving is too much or too little? Who gets to decide when we stop the vigils? What makes your timetable right and theirs wrong?

The one thing I know is this: You can call Bassett and Bex many things, but you cannot label them racist or non-inclusive.

Full disclosure: I performed numerous functions for Bassett, Bex and CEO Helina Kinnersley from June 2008 until about two months ago. Do the math. That’s eight years. So I’ve had an insider’s view. I’ve seen the good and I’ve seen and felt the soft underbelly of their operation. Never was there a hint—not even the slightest—of racism, racial insensitivity or exclusion. More to the point, they have hired people of color, transgender individuals, gay men, gay women, bisexuals, queer, questioning and, yes, straight. They have hired Catholics and Protestants and Buddhists and Jews. They have hired short ones, tall ones, round ones and skinny ones. They have hired saints and sinners. People of all stripes are welcomed to work for and with them, and attend their club.

We won’t even talk about the small fortune they’ve spent on upgrades to the nightclub, nor the small fortune they’ve lost.

The point is, I have a dog in this fight and I’m fully onside with Bassett, Bex and Kinnersley.

Saying that, I do not discount the voice or perceptions of others. Perception is reality. If a person of color believes a clothing-themed event called White Party is racist, then that’s what it is. To that person only. Nothing I can say will sway her or his mindset. I’d have more favorable results if I were to try and convince a Christian that God does not exist.

But I’m not here to convince anyone of anything. I’m here to say I find the attack on Bassett, Bex and Kinnersley distasteful and excessive in the extreme. Also out of line. Surely the naysaying natterbugs can deliver an argument free of the Trumpisms that have been prevalent in the White Party discussion. If not, you might not have a gay club to talk about anymore.

Bottom line: White Party was about clothing, not skin color.


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Ask The Gays: Donald Trump on Milk, bathrooms and radical limp-wristism

patti dawn swansson

patti dawn swansson

We now take you to Fox TV’s popular new political awareness show Ask The Gays, with your host and friend of all gays from Orlando to Saudi Arabia—Donald J. Trump!

TRUMP: “Welcome…welcome everybody. Glad you could be here. We’ve got a special show today…nobody will be fired…but we’ll light a fire under a few people. Like that guy making noise in the back of the room. Get him out of here! Get him out of here! He’s either a Mexican or a rapist. Probably both. But get his name and number before you toss him into the riot outside. We’ll want to hire him at cheap illegal immigrant wages to help build the wall between Mexico and these great United States once I’m president of these great United States.

“Any Muslims in the room? Get ’em out of here…get ’em out of here. And get their guns and strap-on body bombs before they leave. All you women can stay, though…yes, all you women can stay. Especially the lookers. Donald J. Trump never turned away a pretty face. Just remember your place, though. You gals just sit and look pretty and let the menfolk do all the talking.

“Now, you all know how this show works. I ask the questions and a panel of notable gays provides the answers to the questions I ask. This will give us some insight to the gays. What they want, what they need, what they’re demanding—and we all know how demanding they are. We gave ’em same-sex marriage and now they want to use our bathrooms. Anyhoo, with us today are Ellen DeGeneres, David Hyde Pierce, Caitlyn Jenner and Neil Patrick Harris. Singer Ricky Martin was supposed to be with us, but when I found out he was Latino I had to tell him he was fired…that’s right, he was fired. But I promised to give him work helping build the Great Wall of Trump ’cause that’s the kind of guy Donald J. Trump is.

“Okay, let’s get started…I’ll just toss this first question out to any one of the gays on our panel: Who’s the best friend the gays have ever had in politics? And don’t say Hillary Clinton.”

ask the gaysDEGENERES: “That’s easy—Milk.”

TRUMP: “You didn’t understand the question, Ms. DeGeneres. I didn’t ask you what you put on your Corn Flakes or in your first cup of java this morning, I asked you to name the best friend the gays have ever had in politics.”

DEGENERES: “I understood your question perfectly well, Mr. Trump. The answer is Milk…Harvey Milk.”

TRUMP: “I’m not familiar with that name brand of milk. If it’s popular with the gays, I’ll have to make certain that we’re selling it in all the kiosks and concession shops in Trump Tower. I’ll buy some myself and try it on my cereal. But not my coffee…not my coffee. I’m a cream man. Next question…this one is for you, Caitlyn Jenner: Is it true that the T in LGBT stands for Trump?”

JENNER: “No, it stands for transgender.”

TRUMP: “Oh, that’s right…that’s right. And you are one of these so-called trannies, are you not?”

JENNER: “Yes I am.”

TRUMP: “Didn’t you used to run and jump, or something like that?”

JENNER: “Yes, I was Bruce Jenner when I won the gold medal in the decathlon at the 1996 Olympic Games in Montreal.”

TRUMP: “Montreal…that’s in Canada, isn’t it? Hmmm…note to self: I’ll have to think about building a wall up there, too. Too many Frenchies coming down from there and slipping into these great United States. We’ve already got enough languages I can’t speak or understand. But I digress…let me ask you this, Caitlyn: Are you still packing Bruce’s man meat under your skirt?”

JENNER: “That’s an inappropriate question and I refuse to answer.”

TRUMP: “I’ll take that as a yes, Brucelyn. So, you still have your man meat and yet I allowed you to use the women’s washroom at my Trump Tower. Does that not tell you and all the gays that I am a champion of the tranny cause?”

JENNER: “The transgender have a cause? Who knew? Not me. I thought it was about hair, clothes and makeup.”

TRUMP: “Let’s move on to David Hyde Pierce…Mr. Pierce, as I recall you, played Niles Crane on the hit TV show Frasier, which, by the way, was not as big a hit as my reality show. Is it true that you played the role of a closeted gay man?”

PIERCE: “Niles was not gay. He was married three times and had a child.”

TRUMP: “That’s right…now I remember…you married that ditzy British woman. Shouldn’t let them enter these great United States, either…too many bad teeth…should tell them to get out…get out and stay over there on the other side of the pond, with all their Muslim friends. But I digress again…you, as Niles, were slight of build, always nattily attired, a fuss-budget, effeminate, you always hung around with another man, you loved the opera, classical music and French cuisine…just like all the gays, am I right?”

PIERCE: “That’s stereotyping.”

TRUMP: “I say it like it is. I’m not like President Obama or Hillary Clinton, who refuse or are afraid to call radical limp-wristism what it really is—radical limp-wristism. I’m not afraid to say it—Niles Crane was a gay man! That’s right, Niles Crane was a gay man and Donald J. Trump supports any gay man who marries an English woman or a lesbian…yes he does, because that’s not same-sex marriage.”

HARRIS: “Can I say something, Mr. Trump?”

TRUMP: “Well, you’re here to answer questions, but I guess I’ll let you ask one, Mr. Patrick. Hit me with your best shot.”

HARRIS: “What does any of this have to do with the presidential election?”

TRUMP: “Not a damn thing…not a damn thing. But Donald J. Trump’s advisors told me that I’ve been talking too much about kicking Muslims, Mexicans and rapists out of the country. They suggested that I make nice with the gays, so I’m making nice with the gays the only way I know how. Well, that’s all the time we have this week, folks. We’ll see you all next week on Ask The Gays. Our special guest will be Portia de Rossi, who’ll give us the inside scoop on what it’s like between the sheets with Ellen DeGeneres and we ask the gays: Should America be watching?”

(Note: The preceding has been satire, unauthorized by the Donald Trump presidential campaign.)