Once upon a time coming out meant a girl is celebrating her eighteenth birthday with an impressive party inviting all the significant people in her life so that she may be introduced to society as a young lady.
Or maybe a boy hits his twenty-first year and is now initiated into the rites of adulthood as he assumes his new responsibilities as a dutiful citizen destined to conquer the world with the uniqueness of his person and the armor in his dreams.
But the term coming out has completely changed.
It no longer involves any physical or social metamorphosis. Instead it refers to the act of telling the whole world the stuff that you are really made of. It is, after a drum roll, literally a very public announcement of who you are because of what you have chosen to become. More than that, it said to be about honesty, liberation and pride for accepting who you are and what you want everybody to know about what you will do with the rest of your life.
Coming out has become a turning point when one reveals if not confirms what everybody has been assuming or whispering regarding one's true sexuality.
In other words, coming out no longer connotes the emergence from some pretty chrysalis to become a fresh adult ready to learn and confront life's challenges. Instead, coming out is actually stepping out of the closet or some cloud of discreet animosity to announce to everyone that, yes, you are different. The term queer (despite its political correctness) seems to be updated --- because standing out of a crowd does not make you a freak. Better yet, you are an exception to the general rule --- and for the eyes of some, you are even breaking the rules, violating the norms and even deprived of the rights to enter the Pearly Gates without some form of exorcism.
You would think that in this day and age when not mere tolerance but acceptance has become the dictum to recognize and appreciate plurality that issues such as these are already considered so last century. But in these islands, we are the seeming freaks. We take pride in thinking differently. We celebrate how "uncool" we are in thought and norm even if it meant being left behind how the rest of the world feels. But then that's just being us.
OK, I get the point. May tama ka rin diyan.
It does not mean that just because everybody else does it or thinks in a certain way (on this planet anyway) that we have to follow suit as well.
Remember, we are the only nation in the world that does not recognize divorce and there are certain sectors of our society who are so proud about this. We take great pains to prove that we are pleasantly conservative, practically unmoved by the changes in the world --- and living in our own alternative universe.
We still make such a big deal about the morality in the use of condoms, right?! And we aren't even discussing about the choice of colors and flavors in these controversial rubbers.
No wonder it's such a friggin' big deal to come out in this country.
After all, we energize ourselves with all sorts of speculations about people --- whether they are our next door neighbors or species of popular interest --- by focusing on ano ba talaga sila?
No, it doesn't really matter if they are mabait, masama, kampon ni Satanas or even blessed with stigmata. We don't really care if they are matalino, bobo, mautak, mandurugas, magnanakaw or may sayad. We are more titillated speculating whether they are bading or tibo ... manyak or bano, kabit or legit. It is as if it is a matter of life or death or one's choice of sexuality will affect the diplomatic ties between the Philippines and China ... or would be a strong factor in the economic growth of the nation until 2016.
As a friend of mine would put it, "May gan'on?"
The curiosity for somebody else's sexual orientation is equated with moral fiber. Maybe that is why it has become a national preoccupation along the lines of the feverish interest as to who got boinked by who --- or who is now gestating yet another child without the blessings of a holy sacrament.
And not that someone's coming out is not newsworthy all over the world. We hear and read about these things happening in that sector of the news-hungry or scandal-savvy brand of journalism wherever whenever.
For instance, after harassing Ricky Martin for years speculating on his true sexuality, he finally came out into the open and confirmed all those hushed-up whispers or the stuff that fills up spaces in tabloids. Then what? Well, so what? Ricky Martin can still sing Living La Vida Loca like no other ... and swing his hips to create tremors all the way from Puerto Rico.
When, for instance, years ago Ellen Degeneres came out and admitted that, yes, she was gay ... and had a string of partners until she finally married Portia DaRossi, the world did not exactly stop spinning to freeze in shock. After a while, everything proceeded as the universe planned it --- and people accepted the fact that Ellen was a brilliant host, married to another woman and the face of a most successful talk show that has made its mark in so many seasons.
This holds so true for so many high profile individuals who are eternally scrutinized by the microscopic eyes of the prying platforms of media all over the world. We never get enough of speculation --- and when we get the confirmation, we begin our ruthless exercise of hasty generalization, ruthless judgment or even downright bigotry.
But the point is that whether Anderson Cooper admitted that he is gay or not has got absolutely nothing to do with his brilliance as a broadcast journalist or his integrity as a human being.
The point is also that the talent of actors like Neil Patrick Harris or Cynthia Nixon did not diminish nor did the perception of the audience of their integrity as artists dim in any manner whatsoever when they admitted that --- yes, they were gay. Why? Because it had nothing to do with what they did best --- which was to perform on screen, on stage and in various television shows.
Being gay is important to who they are all --- but that is not everything about them. In the same vein, being a homosexual plays a great part in how one thinks, feels and is positioned in society --- but it is not everything about a person. It just so happens ... in the same manner that it just so happens that one is straight, one is bisexual or one who decided to pursue asceticism.
Again this is all a matter of the choices you make. Acknowledging who you are and knowing the rewards and consequences of choosing to become what you are meant to be regardless of what institutions, man-made norms and social obligations dictate is part of everyone's journey for growth. Our pursuit for personal happiness is ours and ours alone. Parents and other organized institutions dedicated to the distinction of right from wrong will always have something to say, hopefully with the best of intentions. But the choice is still left with the individual because only you can define, describe and eventually discover what will make you happy.
It is also your choice whether you want to make a big deal about coming out or just go with the flow and let whatever may be ... may be.
For the media personality, coming out has become an event whether they maneuver it as such or drawn out of inevitability.
The moment you make a living in front or behind a camera, onstage, on location or in a studio, people are always bound to speculate. Whether you will admit, confess or make this an event comparable to the red carpet premiere of a multi-million peso production is again one's personal choice.
Whether one chooses to keep mum and not respond to any queries as to what one really prefers as company when the doors are locked or the lights are dimmed, again that is the choice of the individual. This holds true for the most brilliant of stars ... to the barely noticeable asteroids gravitating around Planet Fame.
Is it a sin not to give any concrete reply or even address questions about one's sexual preference? Of course not! There is not a single line in the constitution of any nation or any legal contract binding the services of an individual that demands that a person guarantees his heterosexuality much less the mastery of the missionary position in the realm of bedroom exercises.
Coming out only becomes overstated when the celebrity wants to push this aspect to the focus of everyone's attention. The imaginary sense of obligation to the public ("I owe it to my fans.") is usually proportionate to the degree of popularity --- or propensity for controversy of a media personality. Realistically speaking, the public couldn't care less if an actor or actresses chooses to make out with goat or sheep if the said creature is of no media value, right? The bigger the star, the more popular he or she is ... the more we become curious and the more premium we give to the question, "Who does he drop his pants for?"
But, really? Does a public personality owe the public the right to know how he or she gets his or her jollies?
The answer is both Yes and No.
Yes, if he or she feels that this would inspire and give a sense of dignity for accepting one's self. To use celebrity power to also empower people into recognizing the beauty in differences --- and how in a space honoring diversity can human dignity be truly recognized --- is one beautiful way to constructively use popularity. To inspire, affect and help people by living through example is the best way to show the fans that "It is OK to be different. It depends on how useful and helpful you serve your society."
However, when coming out is all about launching a career, grabbing public attention and literally kicking the hornet's nest just to have cameras aimed at your direction or have people talking about YOU and not what you are supposedly representing, then that's an entirely different agenda all together. That is when one uses the vulnerability of the audience (and the gullibility of media) to suck up to very, very personal if not selfish needs.
When one chooses to focus on the sexual in sexuality --- and to express defiance rather than self-expression, self-affirmation and validation, then coming out is nothing different from any other form of media whoring.
The sad part about coming out in this country is that despite the honorable purpose of a few to show how an alternative lifestyle is not the be all and end all of an individual's usefulness in society, there are those who have merely trivialized it. Maybe it is media itself that is to blame for turning an event meant to awaken and inspire, open doors for intelligent discussion or even reconsider norms into sheer sensationalized melodrama. That is when coming out is commercialized and trivialized.
Unfortunately, that does not empower or affirm dignity. It merely cheapens not only the event ... but everyone involved.