Be true to thine ownself
January 19, 2013 11:52 PM   Subscribe

People have the misconception that a gay person comes out once. It's not true. If you're gay and you're authentic, you're coming out constantly. You're on a business trip, for example. A cab driver asks if you have kids, and you say that you do. Then he asks about your wife. Even though you may be exhausted, you find yourself summoning the energy to have a transformative conversation with a total stranger on whom you are depending to get to the airport and whose reaction you have no way of predicting. It takes a few tablespoons of courage. Every time. But you do it. Because it's who you are, and you've learned long ago not to deny who you are or who your partner is. Because to deny who you are is a betrayal of yourself and the man you love and the children you have together. So you never, ever skirt the issue, no matter how tired or busy you are. You become a Jedi with your truth. Not just the truth, but your truth. Dan Pallotta writes "Never Lie about Who You Really Are" in the Harvard Business Review blog.
posted by infini (54 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
This is incredibly good. Thanks!
posted by jcterminal at 11:56 PM on January 19, 2013

You know what, I do a whole lot of not coming out. I don't come out all the time. Because guess what, the deliveryman doesn't need to know about my sexuality. I'm not offended if he or she assumes I sleep with this or that sex, and I have no desire to share my personal preferences with a total stranger. If they really care, they can look it up on Facebook or something. It's not my duty to educate every single heteronormative individual about why their worldview is reductive and simplistic. It's great that some of our allies in the great big LGBTQetc sandwich are willing to take this burden on, and I thank them for it. But it's tiresome to be lectured by a white, male, wealthy person on how my disinterest in doing this All. The. Time. To. Everyone. is a character flaw. There are a lot of people for which coming out is a serious risk. Telling them to "never lie about who they are" is irresponsible at best.
posted by mek at 12:03 AM on January 20, 2013 [56 favorites]

Interesting article. I agree that normalization demands brave acts, but I'll be honest: I can be a coward about it if I don't feel safe. Coming out is an ongoing process, and the moment definitely depends on safety. For most of my life, I haven't lived in an environment legally, culturally, or physically safe for gay people. It's easier to be true to oneself when in the city, for example. For me, it's never without a slight pause to wonder how the person I'm coming out to would respond. If I find myself outside of a city, I do check myself and decide whether to do it when the matter comes up, because I don't want to get killed.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:14 AM on January 20, 2013 [11 favorites]

This is a terrible comparison. It offends me.
posted by polymodus at 12:19 AM on January 20, 2013

Interesting. Seems to be based on the idea that every person you ever encounter has the right to know the real you. Which they don't. Trust is not a fucking bag of pretzels.
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:58 AM on January 20, 2013 [20 favorites]

This is a great article, not so much for its insights, but for the way in which it demonstrates how even something as socially transformative as open homosexuality is grist for the capitalist mills: "How you can use the coming out process to improve the quality of your work!"
posted by MartinWisse at 1:05 AM on January 20, 2013 [23 favorites]

Yeah, I'm straight, happily married, love my family, but I don't bother letting every damn stranger know it. And if I do bother to give a shit about letting a stranger (like a cabbie) know my life, it would be in situation where a) the truth was easier the nothing or easier than bullshitting, and b) I will still usually cut such a huge amount of relevant fluff that it's probably still considered lying.

My life is complicated, just like every other persons, and I can't be arsed to explain every little detail to someone who a) doesn't give a shit, and also b) is really just interested in either broadcasting their own life and/or views, or just wants to avoid silence.

People that have nothing to hide will still lie about shit, just cause it's easier. Not bothering to tell someone who doesn't really give a shit is okay. The act/art of trying to be "confident and not ashamed of who you are" sometimes forces you to over-compensate in irrelevant situations. It doesn't matter, let it go.

I tell people my name over the phone a hundred times a day, and I must be really bad at pronouncing my own name because everybody hears a wide variety of other names. I don't bother correcting them because fuck it, it doesn't matter at all, even though it doesn't get more "Who I Really Am" than my own name. It's not denying who I really am, it's denying the stranger a place of relevance in my world.
posted by BurnChao at 1:08 AM on January 20, 2013 [16 favorites]

It does sound appealing to become a Jedi of Truth.

I would rather be a Wizard of Privacy, though. Genre preference.
posted by fatehunter at 1:12 AM on January 20, 2013 [20 favorites]

I dunno. 90% of the time I don't come out like this, it is because it would be uncomfortable, not because I feel threatened or unsafe. Really though, why should I feel awkward alone when I can make nosy-balcony-neighbor or overly-friendly-receptionist feel awkward with me?
posted by Garm at 1:17 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I'm straight, happily married, love my family, but I don't bother letting every damn stranger know it.

You don't have to let them know it. They assume correctly in your case. And that's kind of the point. As a queer person, it gets really tiring being casually pushed out of the world by this sort of banter. It's a constant reminder that for most of society, you aren't normal, whatever weight you want to give that word.
posted by Jilder at 1:29 AM on January 20, 2013 [35 favorites]

I think that mek and Blazecock Pileon have it bang on about safety and power dynamics. Being a Truth Jedi is a damn sight easier if you're in a position of power. I've seen this not just with being out as being gay, but being out as having had a mental illness. "Isn't it great that X [celebrity] is able to talk about their mental illness!" Well, yes. But they have the money that if the world turned round and never employed them again, they wouldn't starve. It doesn't mean that it's not a risky move to out yourself (as whatever) if you're privileged, it doesn't meant that it doesn't take courage. But the risks are different for different people, and some of those risks are just not worth taking.
posted by Coobeastie at 1:41 AM on January 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I'm straight, happily married, love my family, but

Then you need to read the article again because you're not getting it.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:54 AM on January 20, 2013 [10 favorites]

They also assume incorrectly a lot of the facts about us, and I don't bother correcting them. We fall outside of "normal" too, and I'm not bothering to fill in how because again, it doesn't matter what a stranger knows, and it gets really tiring trying to explain ourselves over and over.

It's okay to not give shit about that stranger knowing exactly who you are. They aren't trying to learn who you are, or have deep meaning conversation about politics or philosophy. They are just trying to fill in the silence with inconsequential banter, and maybe also hop on a soapbox if provided an opportunity. Realize that you are also their stranger. You aren't interested in them at all, but you may try to fill in the silence with inconsequential banter, or maybe hop on your soapbox if you have one and they provide you with an opportunity.
posted by BurnChao at 2:07 AM on January 20, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'm just trying to help, by pointing out that you don't need to feel bad if you don't out yourself to every single person you meet. It's not "denying who you are" to not feel like explaining yourself to everyone you meet.

I'm just trying to say something nice and supportive, but if you want to make me out like a bad guy, fine, keep feeling bad doing something that everybody else is totally fine with doing. Fuck it. Again, I don't feel like expending too much energy on a stranger.
posted by BurnChao at 2:15 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is a terrible comparison.

You mean comparing heteronormative assumptions with poor customer service? It is a bit unexpected, but it's sort of nice that the the Harvard Business Review thinks it can take the daily struggle against homophobia as something its readers will automatically relate to.
posted by Segundus at 2:15 AM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm just trying to help...

A good thing to do then is to shush for a while, let the thread develop, and maybe you'll learn something about what it is actually like to have the foundations of your personal life casually dismissed by a solid chunk of the people you interact with daily. Because right now, you aren't helping. Right now, you are basically saying it can't be as big a deal as people make out, and they shouldn't feel bad, and frankly it is a big deal, and I often do feel invalidated. Don't tell me I'm what I'm experiencing is invalid too, just because you don't have to deal with it.

Listen. That's going to be more helpful.
posted by Jilder at 2:47 AM on January 20, 2013 [13 favorites]

This is why small talk is bad.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:43 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is why small talk is bad.

Which is why you talk about the weather and even then you are bound to offend someone.
posted by three blind mice at 5:00 AM on January 20, 2013

You don't have to let them know it. They assume correctly in your case. And that's kind of the point. As a queer person, it gets really tiring being casually pushed out of the world by this sort of banter.

This is a good reason to work against heteronormativity in general. It's not a great reason to get into a huge debate with a cabbie while you are tired. That isn't "authenticity" that's obsessive honesty. Everyone lies to casual strangers who make assumptions, straight or not.

Besides which, your "it gets really tiring being casually pushed out" language makes it sound more like you'd be lashing out at the cabbie than educating him.
posted by DU at 5:10 AM on January 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

Am curious as to how those of you who "don't come out to everyone" navigate the question of what your partner does. For ,e the conversation usually goes:

Oh, you're married? (points at my wedding and engagement ring)
What does your husband do?

Those of you who don't say "I'm married to a woman actually, she's a doctor" or just "she's a doctor"; what is it you say? "He's a doctor?" Or just "doctor"? Or "I am married to a doctor"?
posted by Iteki at 5:14 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wish someone had told me that you don't just come out once, that instead you come out every single day for the rest of your life. I frequently don't have that tablespoon of courage and I wish I did. Not out of a desire to tear down heteronormativity or confront people's prejudices; but instead, because I made a decision that I was no longer going to pretend I was someone else, and every time I do, I can't help but feel a pang of disappointment. Despite any rational justification to not speak up, it does feel like I have betrayed myself.
posted by jamincan at 5:30 AM on January 20, 2013

DU: The tiring part isn't the talking. It's the several dozen times a day it happens that makes it tiring. Every day for the rest of your life.
posted by Jilder at 5:34 AM on January 20, 2013

Those of you who don't say "I'm married to a woman actually, she's a doctor" or just "she's a doctor"; what is it you say? "He's a doctor?" Or just "doctor"? Or "I am married to a doctor"?

It would depend on who I'm talking to. A coworker, I'd probably come out because it's only going to get more complicated in future interactions. Some random person on the train that I'm never going to talk to again, I wouldn't confirm their error with a pronoun, so I'd use one of the last two.

But I'm averse to small talk in general anyway and pretty much always pick the response that will get me out the conversation quickest without seeming rude anyway. Emitting the smallest amount of information possible is usually the way to do this, so I basically never correct assumptions from strangers.
posted by DU at 5:36 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

That sense of betrayal (to one's self) is awful. Especially when you're keeping silent with people you're hanging out with and getting to know who might become friends. And then it's going to be an even bigger surprise for them, and you, to navigate. But to hell with the nosy cabbie/boss/co-worker.

But then there's that silent rush that sometimes comes with keeping a secret because you're a member of an elite group that you can only be born into. That's what makes life worth it. The Super Club of Confession-Hating Queers Who Secretly Rule The World's Playgrounds.
posted by artof.mulata at 5:38 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

This isn't a gay thing. This is something that anyone whose life doesn't conform to the conventional expectations has to deal with, all the time. Single parents, widows, families living with chronic illness, mental illness, financial problems ... imagine a parent whose kid died, and the OP's scenario doesn't even get past the first question "You're on a business trip, for example. A cab driver asks if you have kids, and you say..."

Everyone's life has challenges that they don't want to talk to with every stranger making small talk in passing. But for many people, gay or straight, those passing questions are hard to answer politely without alluding to the serious stuff. It's not intentionally nosy, usually, it's just surface stuff. For many people, it's just that their personal story is much closer to the surface.

And it's not just cabbies or other strangers, it's business associates/bosses/clients, it's friends of friends at social events, etc. you can't just say "oh he's got no business asking my business!" The smalltalk questions are designed to be social lubricant, to result in better connections between people, and that sort of thing is necessary at work, in the neighborhood, in social lives.
posted by headnsouth at 5:48 AM on January 20, 2013 [21 favorites]

Small talk isn't designed, it's evolved. For the cabbie it serves to make him less lonely. If you answer honestly...and he balks...he still kind of got what he wanted, right?

Truth Jedi want to apply some evolutionary pressure to small talk to the effect that it becomes more inclusive.

That sense of betrayal (to one's self) is awful.

The "self" in question must be the Truth Jedi, rather than the gay guy, or even the out gay guy. There aren't many identities that call for 24/7 honesty, even for serious business.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:14 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Those of you who don't say "I'm married to a woman actually, she's a doctor" or just "she's a doctor"; what is it you say? "He's a doctor?" Or just "doctor"? Or "I am married to a doctor"?

I'd rather people just say, "She's a doctor," thus correcting the person but also not embarrassing them unduly. When 90% of the people you talk to are in straight relationships, lots of non-homophobic people (even queer people) can make a hetero normative assumption by mistake.
posted by jb at 6:29 AM on January 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

It's interesting that in an article named Never Lie About Who You Really Are Pallotta writes I do a lot of work in the humanitarian sector and leaves it at that. If you believe there's such a thing as a lie by omission, you could fairly conclude that this is a good example. His short bio at the bottom of the piece reveals that he's the founder of Pallotta TeamWorks, but he does not explain that it was a for-profit firm that made money organizing fund-raising events for health-related charity organizations that closed after revelations about the percentage of gross funds raised by the events that went to administrative expenses, including Pallotta's own salary.

That's not hidden information, and it certainly doesn't look like Pallotta is actively trying to hide it. But to reference his work in the humanitarian sector without mentioning this piece of history doesn't seem to match the level of honesty he's recommending for random encounters with florists and cab drivers
posted by layceepee at 6:32 AM on January 20, 2013 [28 favorites]

Stuff like this has changed what questions I ask, and how I ask them. Chat is supposed to make people feel more comfortable, not like they're navigating a terrain of potential landmines. It's distressing to think that through naïveté I am contributing to stress when my aim is to do the opposite.
posted by Lou Stuells at 6:34 AM on January 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

I know so many people who are not working (including me, soon) that I no longer ask "what do you do" (ie what's your job) at parties. Instead, I ask "what do you like to do when you're not at parties (or whatever the thing is)". But people are so used to being asked what their job is that a lot of people think that's what I was asking, when really I'm just asking about their life (because I've been told that just talking about yourself is rude).
posted by jb at 6:43 AM on January 20, 2013 [5 favorites]

A large portion of the time (I realize not always) I already know if I am waiting on a gay man or lesbian, without them telling me. When one woman insisted on telling me, all I could think of was, yeah, I know, I just sell flowers, whatever. It wasn't a big deal.

What some of you might not know is that in the straight world a lot of people will think they will offend someone if they assume they are gay, therefore go straight (pun not intended) into what seems the easier path and assume straightness.

I think people should say what they want about themselves, and not worry about it. No one has the right to tell you to either speak up or shut up.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:45 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't really feel any pressure to discuss wide swaths of my personal life even with members of my immediate family; there is a lot of stuff they don't need to know, that I reserve for my friends. I generally honestly answer (or decline to answer) direct questions, but I don't offer a ton of personal information to strangers. I take cabs pretty often, and we most often a) don't talk beyond directions, b) discuss the weather, c) comment on that insane thing that other driver just did, or d) discuss very briefly that insane thing the State Legislature just did. I'm from the Upper Midwest; we're somewhat reserved, and compulsive sharing is not attractive socially. If it's necessary to correct someone, for clarity or my peace of mind, OK, but that doesn't happen all that often. Your experience, obviously, may be different, but this is what it's like for me.

This is worlds away from not communicating something that affects your job. That is critical, but also often really tedious. I go to a lot of meetings where I have to say "this is the same problem we were dealing with last month; we need to change that process" or "X is still not doing the job she was given; she reports to you; can you get that done?" I hate this stuff, but I do it, because, at the end of the day, it's my job. I can negotiate the terrain of my sense of self entirely according to my own needs; a lot of other people rely on my doing my job conscientiously.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:07 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

This isn't a gay thing.

Well, but it is. We're not actually just like straight people except for who we sleep with. And correcting assumptions is not the same as if we're just like single parents or widows, since if someone says "Oh, no, I'm a widow," it's really, really unlikely that the cabbie or cashier or [blank] will call her a faggot. Or worse.

I know a lot of us live in places where that just doesn't happen anymore, or very rarely. And this is great! It's progress! But the places where it doesn't happen are not the center of the universe, and gay people do not all live in them. So the calculus of what kind of small talk to make and how to respond, well, that's still reality for a lot of us and consequences can be quite a bit more severe if we figure wrong.
posted by rtha at 7:08 AM on January 20, 2013 [9 favorites]

A couple of things caught my attention with this article, the host site and the point he was attempting to make even while managing to derail his own thread. Maybe he was trying for shock value but it overshadowed what he really wanted to say which was "Don't compromise who you are". If you read that paragraph on NGO types getting crushed by bureaucracy, that could be a reference to what layceepee reveals in their comment. Still, if nothing else, HBR has come a long way.
posted by infini at 7:18 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tactically, 'never retreat' is a terrible idea. It sounds good, sure, but there are tons of reasons to retreat, from confusing the enemy to regrouping, and booting that out of your toolkit because a slogan sounds good is idiotic.

I don't come out when I first meet someone, generally. The whole idea of coming out to people just making small talk seems rude; not only am I not interested in changing their life view in twelve minutes or less, they're just going through the small talk out of courtesy. Chances of them changing their perspective based on a brief interaction with a total stranger seem about nil. They'll just think I'm a jerk.

It seems much more effective to get to know people for a while first; if they become important in my life, to the point where being thoroughly honest with them is important, I'll drop a comment about my boyfriend into conversation, in a way that they can avoid reacting to right away.

At that point, they've gotten to know me in context; they know I'm really good at my job and dedicated to what I do, or that I really love role-playing games, or that I'm a bad but enthusiastic musician. I'm not a stranger they can just make assumptions about. I'm a real, living person to them, someone who, to whatever degree, matters.

By giving them time to process it, I give them the chance to consider their feelings, and decide how they want to react. The heat of the moment is a bad time to come to realizations about needing to change your perspective; it's a great time to overreact heatedly. If the person needs to change their world view to incorporate me into it, I think it's rude to insist they do so immediately. And if they want to talk about it, then or later, we talk.

Is it more effective than flinging myself at total strangers throughout my day, insisting on acceptance? Less far-flung, perhaps, but I think I'm helping, in my way. I think it's more considerate of other peoples' feelings. I'll never lie about who I am or the man I love; that doesn't mean that I have to be confrontational all the time.

It's a battle to be seen as worthwhile human beings, to receive consideration from society at large, to be included. Why shouldn't we fight it inclusively, considerately, while showing our worth?
posted by MrVisible at 7:27 AM on January 20, 2013 [5 favorites]

I don't think one's level of forthrightness with a stranger during small talk as anything do do with being your authentic self.
posted by spaltavian at 7:36 AM on January 20, 2013 [7 favorites]

This is sort of tangential, maybe, but this interesting thing happened to me when I was in DC for work last week. It's something that used to happen pretty often when I lived there, but doesn't ever happen now that I live in San Francisco.

I was walking from the Metro to work. A woman walking towards me made eye contact and held it for a beat longer than normal, and then she gave me The Nod.

I'm butch in presentation, and when I lived in DC I wouldn't have ever been mistaken for a straight woman with short hair: I was definitely a dyke. DC is a town where discretion and the closet are often the same thing, but I guess the lavender lambda tattooed on my forehead was totally visible to any other queer. That's where The Nod comes in. It's a way of one member of the family to say "I see you; do you see me?" to another without being overly specific or obvious in case you're wrong about your read of the other person.

Getting The Nod last week from that woman I'd never seen before and will never see again made me realize that I kind of miss that "I see you!" But it doesn't exist in San Francisco, apparently. We don't need it here, mostly, because we know we're not invisible, and we don't have to maintain the kind of coded communication that a place like DC seems to still require. It's a relief.
posted by rtha at 8:06 AM on January 20, 2013 [8 favorites]

I really liked this; thanks for posting it. As an invisible bisexual, it deeply resonates with me.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:06 AM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

This is a terrible Harvard Business Review article. His effort to walk his experience coming out all the time as a gay man over to a business philosophy is terribly clumsy. Also his specific product example (flat screen TV with rear facing speakers) is simply wrong; the speakers are in the back because no one serious uses them, they are hidden so that the screen is uninterrupted. Also if you hang the TV right you can hear them just fine.

But can we talk about being gay and coming out all the time? Because I do that and it's exhausting just like he says. And awkward. Mostly because in a small talk context the other person you're talking to doesn't want to know, doesn't want a complicated conversation, but once they go into anything slightly personal well hey they might as well know who you are and so you tell them and then it's all awkward. It shouldn't be strange, it's just who I am. And somehow it's my problem to make the conversation not awkward.

Case in point; I just moved to a new town with my gay partner. Now there's a whole world of neighbors and new friends who I need to get over this barrier. I can't just stay private; I'm going to be living around these folks, they're going to figure it out eventually. And I need to come out deftly so that if someone has a problem with gay people they're not surprised and can compose themselves and keep their hatefulness to themselves and be polite. I've found in this situation the best approach is early and often. The third sentence out of my mouth when I met a new neighbor starts "me and my partner Ken", over and over, and just go right past it like it's no big thing. Fortunately in California in the 2010s, it is mostly no big thing, and everyone seems OK. But it is tiring being so freaking self-conscious all the time.
posted by Nelson at 8:10 AM on January 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

Ah, Dan and his Pallotta Team Works (PTW), the highly-controversial former fundraiser.

Everything in his life revolves around a sense of business (and profit).

He started the first AIDS rides, and later breast cancer rides with he and his for-profit company benefitting significantly from each endeavor.
"A for-profit company, PTW developed and managed fundraising events for charities working on AIDS, breast cancer, and other causes. Unlike most such affairs, PTW’s were elaborate ones, often stretching over days and professionally marketed and run. (A signature one was a three-day walk-a-thon to fight breast cancer.) The minimum donation required to participate in them was atypically large too; for example, $1,200 for the breast cancer walk. As a result, over a nine-year span, organizations working with PTW brought in unprecedented amounts of money—more than $500 million, Pallotta reports.

But PTWs efforts were also expensive, with fees averaging just above 40 percent of the revenues, covering not only the tents, meals, and other direct costs of the events (occasionally including massages for the participants), but also PTW’s corporate budget (including a mid-six-figure salary for Pallotta). Facing criticism from their supporters, the charities involved eventually decided they might realize more by running the fundraisers themselves. Amid charges and counter-charges (including a lawsuit), they canceled their contracts with PTW. The business collapsed."*

"The controversy over Pallotta Teamworks is a good reminder to investigate carefully before supporting any event that purports to serve a cause."*
'Nuff said.
posted by ericb at 8:48 AM on January 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

Exactly, Dan, "Be True To Thine Ownself, And Thine Ownself Alone."
posted by ericb at 8:49 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Dan has parlayed his controversial background into a cottage industry: writing books, articles, speaking engagements, consulting assignments and even an online store.

Check out his website: Dan Pallotta.
posted by ericb at 8:58 AM on January 20, 2013

I totally didn't get the connection to customer service, and the target audience of the article should be well-meaning straight people making these assumptions, not LGBTs. Even among liberals I constantly hear comments like, "Your daughter's adorable; look out for those teenage boys!" or immediate assumptions about "husbands" vs. "wives".

You don't need to contort the English language to avoid gendered nouns; just think for a brief second before setting up an uncomfortable situation.
posted by nev at 9:05 AM on January 20, 2013

... including a mid-six-figure salary for Pallotta

BTW -- that remuneration was per event and each occurrence (e.g. Boston - NYC AIDS Ride; L.A. - S.F.O. AIDS Ride, Avon 3-Day Breast Cancer Walks).

Memories of the Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day Walks in 2002.
Over 20,000 walkers [were] registered for the remaining Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day Walks in 2002 ... with the event producer, Pallotta TeamWorks, closing its doors on August 23.

... Former Pallotta TeamWorks employees say that the plan is for Pallotta TeamWorks to hire back enough of its 250 furloughed staff to complete the remaining 2002 events. Avon, taken by surprise by the closing of Pallotta TeamWorks, vows to hold them to finishing the remaining walks for 2002.

... Avon assures the walkers that donations have always been deposited in an account at LaSalle Bank that is managed solely by the Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity. Pallotta TeamWorks is paid a set fee for producing each event, plus the approved expenses for the event. The effect of any bankruptcy proceedings by Pallotta TeamWorks is unknown.

... Message board posters purporting to be former employees say the company took losses on its AIDS Vaccine Rides, and ensured that the charity got a payout. Several rides were canceled due to poor registration numbers. The Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day Walks were extremely successful, but fees to the company are fixed for each event.

Avon announced in May, 2002 that it would no longer sponsor the 3-Day Breast Cancer Walks and would pursue "new avenues" of events to raise money for breast cancer. This set Pallotta TeamWorks scrambling to find a new sponsor. It is rumored on the message boards that a new sponsor and beneficiary were in negotiation and ready to sign by early August. Announcements at the Seattle 3-Day Walk and online also said that a new sponsor would be unveiled soon.

... With no sponsor and beneficiary in line for 2003, Pallotta TeamWorks had little choice but to cut losses and close its doors. Check and mate.

posted by ericb at 9:11 AM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've walked along these lines most of my life. Even now, living in a town of 10,000 that is relatively close to the second largest city in this state, I find I have to make decisions regularly about how I'm going to allow the conversation to go.

My workplace is an excellent example. I work in a warehouse as part of a staff of 9. I was there for 2 months before my warehouse lead asked me if I was married. I had to make a conscious decision to answer with "I've been with the same guy for almost 20 years" rather than just saying "no, I'm not".

I try to be pretty no-nonsense when I talk about my life, but I do find I edit myself. I don't refer to "my partner" or "my boyfriend", I always use his first name instead. At this point, 18 months into employment, there are still two people with whom I have never really had any sort of even vague conversation about my situation. I'm sure they know, or maybe they don't, they have never asked about my home life or addressed anything with me. Sometimes people do that, and I'm okay with them being that way.

Interestingly, I was having a conversation just a couple of weeks ago with one of the drivers who isn't actually around much because he runs a long route, and mentioned how my sister disinvited me from her first wedding because she was worried my partner and I were going to make out in the pews during the ceremony. (Like people do this? Even straight people? *shrug*)

He turned to me and said, "wow, I never would have guessed that about you. That's cool, my brother-in-law is gay. Are you one of the 'bears'?" and we ended up having this extended conversation about things, the first time anyone I work with had actually engaged with me on the topic rather than just letting it fall away without response. It was a really great experience for me and has changed my comfort level at work greatly.

(Actually, that's not entirely true. One of the other drivers came up to me a bit nervous right before Thanksgiving and said that he knew that my "friend" [his word] was working away from home and that if I wanted to come join his extended family for dinner he would like that. His invitation was sweet and very kind, and while I did have plans so I wasn't going to just be alone on that day, I let him know that it made me feel really good that he would open his house to me like that.)

Mostly my attitude is, people, it's fucking 2013, get over it. Let me live my life as I let you live yours. But do I talk at work about going out dancing at one of the gay-friendly clubs over the weekend? Or do I mention the hotties I see like the other guys talk about women who catch their eye? I do not. There is still a layer of subtle oppression which runs through life, and I don't expect that to go away.

Coming out is not an event. It is a life-long series of daily choices, often made minute by minute, and yeah, sometimes that involves being matter of fact with a cab driver or a grocery store checkout clerk. The lesson I've learned after over 20 years of trying to live authentically is that the more matter of fact I am about things and don't make it a Big Announcement Event when I talk about my life, the more others just roll with it. Even if it just drops after that, at least I haven't lied. And lying is a skill society teaches gay people very early on and it's not healthy.
posted by hippybear at 11:31 AM on January 20, 2013 [28 favorites]

So in an effort tO make no assumptions: if I met you at a party and asked one of those questions and you mention being gay, how would you prefer me to react?
posted by Omnomnom at 11:58 AM on January 20, 2013

Personally, I'd want to be engaged, but not used as some kind of representative of the entire gay population and thus subjected to a sociology quiz about what it is to be gay.

A good example is how my co-worker responded in my comment above. He displayed that he had some knowledge of gay subculture through his gay brother-in-law, and he treated it all as a matter of fact thing about me, a new piece of knowledge, but not one which was freakish or somehow "other" in any way.

Really, the conversation should be pretty much a continuation of what had come before. If the question was something like "so are you married" and the answer is something like "well, my partner and I would like to be, but it's not legal in this state" or something, the response could be "oh, what does your partner do?" or "how long have you been together?" or even "yeah, it sucks that you can't get married".

Back in the 1990s I was happy to have the conversation turn into Me Being Educator About Gay Things, because the whole gay thing was very new to nearly everyone I talked to and people were curious and needed to feel like I was not this other alien thing and so I'd let the questions and such continue until people had a level of comfort with me that they may not have instinctually had on first hearing they were standing in front of a homosexual.

But the years have passed, gay is pretty present in the culture (even if it's not immediately present in people's lives), and I don't feel like I should be required to play that role anymore.
posted by hippybear at 12:22 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's nice to see the discussion about coming out and honesty in this thread, sparked by the article. But honestly, the article itself was nauseating. We're supposed to take the courage and persistence and honesty and integrity we get from coming out and use it better at getting people to buy crap?
posted by medusa at 1:05 PM on January 20, 2013

A cab driver who I'd used several times before was driving me to Blockbuster. I asked him if he'd seen any good movies lately, & he started talking about a porno movie he'd seen, speaking of it in a tone that sounded like he might as well have been talking about The Dark Knight Rises.

I have no reason to share any part of my life w/ that man.
posted by broken wheelchair at 2:25 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm in the age group in which we were all sort of compelled to be walking ABC Afterschool Specials, ready to deliver an embarrassingly earnest speech on a moment's notice, particularly with the roaring forest fire of AIDS fueling the anti crowd. Unfortunately, it's also the time when the necessary evil of a certain kind of supercharged fuck-you-we're-here-we're-queer advance strike was also de rigeur in some circles, so you were caught between giving the even-toned NPR monologue or dishing out a churning, foamy, acidic dollop of Michael Petrelis or latter-day Luke Sissyfag latherscreech. Maybe it was just me, but as much as I love being a chatty, rambling, blowhard, being a walking very special episode sucked.

I fucking hated the eighties.

Thing is, I'm pretty sure I've never lied about my queerness as a defensive mechanism since my emergence in the fine full flower of faggotry, though I've done the hem and haw routine back in my wayward young adulthood. As a sexually precocious lad, I did a fair amount of plausible deniability in terms of how it was that my bestest pal and I were found in semi-flagrante states ("We were wrestling and our pajama bottoms just came right off! Honestly, the quality of elastic these days is really just terrible!"), but I would have done that had I been fooling around with girls, too. This was the age in which we were all still denying that we masturbated, for pete's sake.

Sometimes, though, you just didn't want to be the very special episode and so you did the crazy tap dancing routine of having a surreal conversation with someone where you never use a gendered pronoun. It amazing me now that we thought saying "the person I've been seeing" is any less overtly gay than saying "my boyfriend," in the same way that Paul Lynde playing a family man wasn't fooling anyone. You ended up trapped in this icky middle ground, rather than just being able to be a person.

I give a huge credit for the normalization of gayness to David Sedaris. Say what you will about his writing and public presence, but in '92, hearing his elf story on the radio was far more radical than dozens of pissed-off New Yorkers puking Ipecac in a church, because it wasn't The Big Gay Coming Out Story™ being delivered with leaden gravity by An Important Gay Writer®—it was just a couple lines in a very funny piece of work that said "hey, this guy likes guys" in the mix with a lot of other lines without making the piece about "hey, this guy likes guys." It wasn't The Big Lesson™, The Tortured Admission™, or even the We Live Among You And Are Just Like You™ schtick from days of yore. It was just in there, handled with the exact amount of importance and emphasis as would be employed by "normal" folk, and Sedaris became one of the very first and very best incidental gays.

It does make me laugh that Pallotta, while arguing for homo transparency, uses that execrable turd of a word so beloved of politically savvy queers and achingly sensitive straight folks—"partner."


It's better than the seventies' obnoxious "lover," as in "Have you met my lover, Paul? We're lovers because we're so in love with love and each other!" Still, it's such a clunky, dorkward business word that my former "partner" and I would laugh every time my sister would introduce us with "This is my brother Joe and his partner, Paul."

"We're thinking of diversifying into CNC fabrication and overseas plants," I'd say, reaching out to shake a hand, and my sister would look annoyed, because she knew I was being a dick. Later, she'd call me to task.

"What's wrong with 'partner'?"

"Nothing, if we're working on the Patterson account. What's wrong with 'boyfriend'?"

"Isn't that sort of high school? Y'all have been together eight years."

"You see a ring on my finger?"


"Then 'boyfriend' is just about where we are."

She huffs at me. It's okay. She's lovely, and brilliant, and compassionate to a fault, but jeez, she's a little too HRC for me sometimes and my dislike for the HRC is pretty absolute.

I'm a guy. Just a guy. Sort of loud, sort of overbearing, fun in the right doses, and prone to talking too much, but my fondness for dick is pretty much incidental to that, and there's not much that makes me happier than watching my life turn from a very special episode to "yeah, I think Joe's pretty much into dudes, so you may be barking up the wrong tree" over the course of my adult life. It's odd, reading Pallotta arguing for openness when he writes, in what is clearly a made-up conversation with some mythical pest guy, that he said "Yes, partner," and "We're a gay couple." Really? That's awfully stilted language for openness—why not just say "We're Homosexual Americans™ living in a same-sex partnership?" Why not go fun and say "We're Homosexual Sapiens?"

If you want to know what to say, imagine what a straight person would say in that same made-up circumstance. I don't think they'd say, when a person was confused because the name on the ticket was different than the name of the person at the door, "We're a heterosexual couple!" They'd just say, "oh, that's my girlfriend" (or wife, or husband, or boyfriend, or even "I'm just here robbing the place, but c'mon in!"). Equality comes when we stop making all these goddamned adjustments because our older Baptist cousins in Georgia can't comprehend how our relationships are supposed to work and just lay it out and move along without the need to explain everything.
posted by sonascope at 8:04 AM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

There's something just tiring about having to decide whether to mention something that can derail a superficial conversation.

This happens less now that I look old enough to have lost a parent, but I often used to have to make the call when strangers would ask about my mother in the present tense. It's very hard correct that assumption without dumping a giant bucket of ice water on the conversation. It's also pretty hard not to correct the assumption and keep the conversation going. I finally learned to duck and murmur "She's... passed," and even that made for some really awkward scenes.

Still, my worst case scenario is momentary awkwardness. A gay person has to consider a much wider range of possible reactions.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:12 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I actually had some of this go on today at work.

One of my coworkers was talking about how even though they have a king size bed, he always finds himself scrunched up against one side nearly falling off because his girlfriend keeps moving over closer and closer during the night. I said, "oh, she's looking for heat and is using you to keep warm!" and he said "yeah, but I have a layer of fat and fur that keeps me warm, plus she's like a furnace." I responded, "yeah, I love sleeping entirely wrapped around someone because I'm always cold, but most of the people I try that with push me away saying it's too hot. Every once in a while I find someone I can wake up tangled up with, but that's rare."

See what I did there?

"Yeah, I love sleeping entirely wrapped around someone because I'm always cold, but most of the people I try that with push me away saying it's too hot. Every once in a while I find someone I can wake up tangled up with, but that's rare."

I'd love to not have to be quite so selective with my wording.
posted by hippybear at 4:54 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sometimes its possible to have a rare but possible problem. More often than not, on coming to know many of the smaller details of my life, people assume I'm gay by default. This has a feel of Europe (where partner is daily word for spouse or lover) and women edgier, where I fit in for the most part; in the "third world" I can't possibly be straight they react in horror to such a strident female individual. Ironically, I've been born into a body that's painfully straight.
posted by infini at 7:24 PM on January 22, 2013

When in doubt, I'd substitute "a dude" for "someone" and "the dudes" for "the people," which causes a nice little bit of cognitive static in the collision of doofish brah nomenclature and earnest expression of inclination. Of course, bravado is my social drug of choice and I look like a bouncer from a somewhat seedy bar, so I tend to get away with performance art of this nature.
posted by sonascope at 6:40 AM on January 24, 2013

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