Saturday, December 12, 2009

What Would Alex P. Keaton Do?

this post was written by Kissie Catastrophe.

Hello Internets! So, this is my first blog at ethecofem and I thought I should say a few words before launching in. I’m an activist on many progressive issues. Because of this, I will likely write blogs that will encourage you to be an activist as well. I will do my best to provide resources for you to follow up with and welcome suggestions from you on good organizations and actions to take. Now, with that out of the way….

This may be old news to many folks out there, but in case it isn’t: Meredith Baxter, also known as “Elyse Keaton” on the 80’s sitcom Family Ties, stepped out of the closet publicly last week. As someone who grew up on her most popular acting work, and thoroughly enjoyed the liberal parents vs. Reagan-worshipping son (Good old Alex P.!) dichotomy they had going on the show, I was extremely excited to hear this surprising fact.

I understand her motivation for announcing that she is a lesbian is twofold (at least). Partly inspired by the need to address gossip blog controversies about her personal life- the last four years of which she has spent with the same partner. Her other reason, I think, is rather important­: if you find out someone in your life is gay, you’re a helluva lot more likely to think that gays in general are entitled to the same rights as you and every other American/human. In fact, a recent study showed that 72% of people who say they don’t know gay people oppose gay marriage. The same question posed to people who do know gays an opposition drops to 47%, and support for gay marriage increases by over 30%.

This really struck me. I just saw Milk recently (maybe Meredith did, too?) and was reminded of what a crucial movement-building tool coming out is. If you haven’t seen the film, based on the true story of the first openly gay man to hold a major political office, you should. In it, he organizes the gay community using several approaches, one of the most effective: get everyone out of the closet. Tell your grandpa, your boss, your childhood friends. Tell the people who’ve always liked you for who you are, so they can realize that you’re really no different than they are, by all important measures.

I spent my childhood jumping between the culture and diversity of Minneapolis and the pale, homogenous dreariness of rural MN. It’s a hard place to grow up queer, in any sense of the word. But I’ve seen progress happen. I’ve seen friends go from hyper-homophobic to signing up for GLAAD because someone they care about had the courage and dignity to tell them the truth.

Considering how close we are to providing necessary civil rights to the GLBTQ community, whether it be marriage equality or passing ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act), now is a really good time to consider coming out for the sake of the greater good. Know someone who’d like to come out? Support them in any way you can.

But of course, there’s always more you can do!

Because, in the end, you know as well as I do, that Alex P. Keaton would hem and haw a bit. Then he’d tell his mom that he loves her no matter who she keeps company with, just like you’d say to your mom (or daughter).