Post #8: My Coming Out and New Political Perspectives: Yes, the “Personal is Political”!!

Given the importance of my coming out and my subsequent acknowledgment that I was a gay man in August 2014, it should not be surprising that it also affected my political perspectives: after all I had been involved in progressive politics for much of my life. (See Post #5: My Coming Out: The Wonders of New Beginnings, August 2014 – August 2016, published on February 23rd). I had been involved in some sort of political activity since I was 15 years old – starting with the then Environmental Crisis Committee (is the crisis finally resolved?) that I co-founded at Lower Merion High School in 1971! Since then, I participated in a variety of progressive local, national, and international causes, most extensively during the many years that I lived in Brookline, Massachusetts: first as Vice-Chair of the Solid Waste Committee and later Co-Chair of the Bicycle Advisory Committee. I also engaged in antinuclear politics, housing politics, neighborhood issues, and even in the local branch of the Citizens Party in the 1980s, as well as various educational and history movements. All of this work is still quite important for me as it continues to influence how I look at the world today.

Once I came out, I came to understand very quickly that I needed to support those political movements that had allowed me to live the life of an openly gay man. It was clear that countless people in these path-breaking movements had more or less paved the way for me to live in a tolerant place like Boston that had moved beyond its Puritan past. As a feminist, I came to appreciate and acknowledge the feminist adage that the  “Personal is Political” (See for example: The Personal Is Political: the original feminist theory paper at the author’s web site (carolhanisch.org)) and its connection to LGBT issues (see Gay Politics Collide with Personal Life | The New Republic, and The history of ‘coming out,’ from secret gay code to popular political protest (theconversation.com)). This was a great period of self-awareness and self-reflection; I internalized more of these messages and challenged myself to move beyond my comfort zone politically.

During the next few years, I learned about and joined a few groups that provided me with new perspectives; they were also great opportunities to meet like-minded people. As importantly, they were ways for me to financially support the crucial political work of those that allowed me to accept who I was personally. I came to realize that different parts of my life could not be separated. Rather, they were intrinsically tied together.

Not surprisingly the two first groups that came to my attention were two groups that were focused on education: GLSEN and the Point Foundation (See Homepage | GLSEN and Homepage | Point Foundation). In different and complimentary ways both organizations were perfect for me. After all, as an educator, I wanted to support my students who were finding ways to acknowledge who they were when they were young and to live happily as who they were. From GLSEN, I gleaned their materials to gain insights into ways to support my students and learned additional strategies to be better aware of the importance of what was said and to be more aware of those teachable moments – much of which I knew implicitly, but as I have already written (see Post #7: My Coming Out and My Professional Life as a High School Teacher, 2014 – 2017, published March 23rd), it was great to have support and ideas to make this work more explicit. Volunteering for the Point Foundation was also a fantastic way to be a larger part of educators to help LGBTQ students who need financial and mentoring assistance to take advantage or for higher education to which they were highly qualified.

Additionally, I joined the Human Rights Campaign: Human Rights Campaign – HRC and PFLAG, which “is the first and largest organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) people, their parents and families, and allies” PFLAG | both of which were important as ways to support essential political lobbying for all. After all, one of the things that were clear to me was how privileged that I was so that I wanted to support organizations that were working to redefine many of these privileges into rights for all. Together these two national-based organizations provided enormously important political work that was not yet been completed. I still remember quite vividly hearing about the June 2015 decision in the Supreme Court that granted same-sex marriages the same rights as opposite-sex ones and how excited that I was to part of this new and progressive climate. I also supported two other organizations that supported people who were less fortunate than I was: Fenway Health: Health Care Is A Right, Not A Privilege. | The mission of Fenway Health is to enhance the wellbeing of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and all people in our neighborhoods and beyond through access to the highest quality health care, education, research and advocacy. and Both Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program | (bhchp.org)

During this period there were multifaceted ways in which I worked to unite my progressive attitudes with an increasingly openness to being out politically. While I contributed financially to the organizations that I mentioned, I also took part in PRIDE demonstrations in Boston and elsewhere. In so doing I was feeling positive about myself as being a part of a larger movement — which was made even more conscious to me in the aftermath of the dreadful events of the June 12th 2016 shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. I remember that I was at my local bar (well — one of two of them — for someone who didn’t really have one) that evening. When I heard the news, I had such a feeling of community (although in so many ways my life was quite different from the victims) and yet it resounded with me in similar ways that anti-Semitic attacks did and do.  The service at Boston City Hall the following Monday was a poignant reminder of the importance of supporting one another in the time of grief and that yes, political action is still quite necessary even in welcoming and open places. It was clear to me that no LGBT person can ignore what happens in a larger community, even if one personally feels unthreatened. It played and still plays an important role in my consciousness, as do reports of what I hear about anti-gay laws and repression in countries in the world.

Locally, DotOUT DotOUT – Boston’s best LGBT Neighborhood Group located in Dorchester, Mass. had both social and political purposes for me, as it helped me to achieve my goals as a “newly out” gay man in my community.  Despite local acceptance, DotOUT still had an important role to play as a community organization to help ensure that issues that were of importance to the LGBT communities were still part of the political agenda. In June 2017 I happily took part in DotOUT’s float in the PRIDE Day: Boston Pride – #WickedProud – which was admittedly a new experience and a fun one for me!

 PRIDE, 2017: Yours truly is fourth from the right … IMG_5932.jpeg (1280×788) (dotout.org)

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