Quick Rant On the Word “Openly”

Shocker: I read a lot of news stories on gay-related issues.  I’m a political junkie, these issues affect me personally, and so there is rarely a story written on the topic which I don’t at least skim.  I am sure everyone has their own obsessive issue-of-choice: from gun rights and feminism to pizza recipes and reality shows.

As a gay-news afficianado let me officially declare that I loathe the phrase “openly gay.”  I can’t wait for the day when it is never used.

In news articles it usually makes an appearance like this: “The openly gay John Smith was just elected to such and such…”  or “Bettie White, who is openly gay, was just removed from her post with the Boy Scouts…

ImageIn every instance the word “openly” is not necessary.  I think I hate it mostly because of the connotation.  I imagine that those less familiar with sexual orientation issues read the above and their mind immediately pictures John prancing through the street in a dress waving a rainbow flag (being open) or Bettie kissing her girlfriend in a public park to celebrate her 35th tattoo (being open).

What the hell does “openly” mean?

People are either gay or not gay.  If they tell one person does that mean they are now “openly” gay?  Do they have to tell 25?

If someone is “in the closet” the word gay would never come up anyway.  “Billy Jean, who some suspect might be gay, just won the blah, blah…”    Doesn’t work.

Can you be openly gay and then revert back to “closed gay?”

For example, we just moved to a new town.  We do not know many people here.  We’ve met neighbors, but I have no idea if they know we are a couple or not.  Our next-door neighbor is an adorable Costa Rican woman who is still learning English. During one of our first conversations she asked in broken English if we were brothers.  We said no.  Then she  asked if we were roommates.  We said no.  We tried to explain that we were a couple, but she did not understand.  It was quite awkward…we eventually just settled on roommates to end the blank confusion.  If no one in this town knows that I am gay am I no longer “openly gay?”

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