By Kenneth Dobson:-
An article in a recent edition of a popular LGBT online business magazine made a plea for “coming out”. It argued that we feel relieved when we do. The pressure is off. We are safer, too, because we can’t be blackmailed or bullied to protect our secret. And, of course, then we can become an out-and-out part of the up-scale consumers’ group that we are supposed to be and part of the LGBT caucus to lobby for political clout. If the “majority” just knew how many of us there are they wouldn’t be so ready to consider ridiculing us in the media and trying to limit our civil rights.
Toward the end of the article the writer began to lose me. I started to feel something sounded wrong besides the obvious, that the article was written in the USA for Americans and it doesn’t exactly fit the Thai context. Thai LGBT people and others who live here could also benefit from greater visibility and more equal rights and greater respect. Numbers matter. We could be more powerful. That’s where I began to see how it is that we are different from brothers and sisters in, say, Colorado.
Rights work differently here. Admittedly times are changing and democracy is stronger than before. There was a picture in the paper the other day of two top generals announcing there would be no coup. Despite their coy smiles and the fact they weren’t looking the camera right in the lens, it was a comfort to be told that democracy has a green light for a while longer. The basic difference, perhaps, between the West and Thailand is that here, it is assumed that rights are granted- not taken for granted. John Locke’s theory that people grant the right to be governed to the government is not widely accepted yet. Here, the big people, the patrons, run things and the people line up for benefits – power and privilege is top down. That, as much as anything, is what is behind the things I hear all the time from LGBT people, “It’s not the Thai way to protest and join organizations for gay rights.” It works far better to recruit some folks in power to be our advocates among others in power. Big groups of rainbow flags filling the streets might even be counter-productive if the groups were clearly linked to politics or political goals.
But what about the argument that coming out has personal benefits by de-stressing us? That, too, may not be the case as much here as it might be for a young upwardly mobile gay or lesbian in the West. Based on the gay people I know, admittedly only a couple of hundred, coming out, when it happens, is not a stress reducer. In fact, it is ambiguity that is valued, not just about sexual orientation and practices but about all things private. Blackmail is not impossible to imagine, but gossip and even libel (like poison pen letters) are recreational activities that rarely seriously hurt the person being talked about; and the effect blows away quickly. Hardly anybody is going to lose his job because somebody has accused him of being gay. .
It is the coming out that causes loss, loss of options being the first. Once a gay man has come out, he cannot claim ambiguity any more. He is defenceless and it is up to others to decide what they are going to do to get their comfort zone back. Expelling the offender is a definite option. Nobody actually wants that. Everybody will try to cooperate in the big dance to keep it from happening. The big happy dance is where there is the least stress, the greater comfort, and the most acceptance.
Thai fellows should think carefully about it before coming out and suspending rainbow flags from their balconies. We can go on living any way we want, with whom we want. People will make up whatever rationale about us that makes them comfortable. Even they, as conjectures, will accept the connection between their conclusions and the facts. We won’t have to say much of anything. We will rarely have any compelling reason to explain that we are doing what we’re doing because we’re gay. And even when we do, the people we have come out to will be hoping we can help them rebuild the web of ambiguity. The dance is to keep life serene, keep things simple, and keep personal issues vague. Coming out doesn’t help us do that.