The church of OUT

GA Voice - - Out Spoken -

By DAR­IAN AARON

In­spi­ra­tion can come when you least ex­pect it. De­spite my rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing out­spo­ken, I was fully pre­pared to forego an ed­i­to­rial in this is­sue. My per­sonal mantra has al­ways been to speak or write only when I have some­thing mean­ing­ful to con­trib­ute to a con­ver­sa­tion or a cause. But some­thing hap­pened: some­thing that I only de­scribe as the equiv­a­lent of what I wit­nessed grow­ing up in the black church, when some­one got “happy” or filled with the spirit, and their only re­course was to scream “Hal­lelu­jah!” or dance in the aisle.

This some­thing was not a church ser­vice, but it very well could have been. Af­ter a long hia­tus, the Stand Up and Rep­re­sent March re­turned to At­lanta’s his­toric West End dur­ing Black Gay Pride, and as long­time At­lanta ac­tivist An­thony An­toine de­liv­ered his spo­ken word piece, “OUT,” he ri­valed the ca­dence of any or­dained min­is­ter I’ve ever known or the call and re­sponse of the many con­gre­ga­tions I’ve sat in dur­ing my life­time. I sud­denly found my­self wrestling with keep­ing my dis­tance as a jour­nal­ist or com­pletely sur­ren­der­ing to the “spirit.” “Cause I’m out, O-U-T For the whole world to see It’s no longer my prob­lem But for y’all to deal”

Septem­ber 18, 2015

As spo­ken by An­toine to a crowd of peo­ple in a neigh­bor­hood of­ten cat­e­go­rized as hos­tile to­ward LGBT peo­ple, those words punc­tured my core. His words re­ver­ber­ated around the space as on­look­ers stopped, lis­tened, and took no­tice.

“It’s no longer my prob­lem, but for y’all to deal.”

That is an in­de­scrib­able gift; the mo­ment when free­dom and self-ac­cep­tance moves be­yond the hy­po­thet­i­cal into re­al­ity. When we as LGBT peo­ple dare to ex­er­cise self-care. When we be­gin to be­lieve the truth about who we are ver­sus the lies and shame pro­jected onto us by those who wish to dim our light. It’s a gift that I wish for all of my LGBT broth­ers and sis­ters. But be­yond that, it’s a gift that I con­stantly pray so­ci­ety will make room for. If not, let it be the gift that we boldly re­claim.

Har­vey Milk once said, “Com­ing out is the most po­lit­i­cal thing you can do.”

It can also be one of the most fright­en­ing. De­spite all the gains our com­mu­nity has made, even in 2015, gay youth, LGBT peo­ple of color, and trans folk re­main our most vul­ner­a­ble. We have to en­sure that when they come out they have some­where to come to. A safe haven, a sur­ro­gate fam­ily, a com­mu­nity that will lift them up, even if the only com­mon­al­ity we may share is an ex­is­tence out­side of het­eronor­ma­tive ideals.

I’ve heard ev­ery rea­son why the closet is still nec­es­sary and the pre­ferred sanc­tu­ary for those who fear the reper­cus­sions of liv­ing in their truth. And while some of those rea­sons may carry weight, I can guar­an­tee noth­ing com­pares to the weight lifted when you re­trieve the power you’d given to main­tain­ing a lie to live in­stead in truth. And along with that, not giv­ing a damn about who doesn’t agree. “It’s time to take a stand, Time to un­der­stand, Time to be a man, I’ve gots to be who I am.”

I’ve never shouted in church, although I’ve come close. An­toine re­minded me that when you of­fer up your au­then­tic self in spirit and in truth, the uni­verse has no choice but to make room for you. And be­cause I know this to be true, I feel like shout­ing right now as I did on the day he reaf­firmed it.

Ex­cerpts from the poem “OUT” are used in this ed­i­to­rial with per­mis­sion from An­thony An­toine.

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