Coming Out Day was cancelled. Not the whole thing, of course. Not the national array of events that, each Oct. 11, encourage closeted people to live openly as queer folk.
But the Coming Out Day party scheduled for Library Mall Wednesday was a wash. The event was planned by the UW-Madison's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Campus Center, whose director, Eric Trekell, told me that the foul weather was to blame for the scuttling. He described the attractions his group had planned, including a symbolic obstacle course, as well as a refrigerator box fashioned into a pretend closet, from which revelers were to have been photographed emerging.
We all know what rain does to refrigerator boxes, so the decision was probably for the best. And the center has planned many other events for a full-blown Coming Out Week, including workshops and a masquerade ball.
I have a soft spot for the Library Mall event, though, because it was as I perused Coming Out Day displays on Library Mall six years ago that, at age 29, I came to my senses and began to come out. It was a decision I had been inching toward my entire adult life, and as I glumly wandered the plaza that fall day, I thought about the mess that denial had made of my life. The closet is indeed an obstacle course, a maze of fears.
And so finally, there on Library Mall, I said: "Burns, what the hell are you waiting for?" And I began to tell friends and coworkers I was gay, and then family members. And every day now, I am glad I made that decision.
The closet is much in the news these days, what with a political scandal that is primarily about a congressman's horrifically inappropriate overtures to teenage pages, but is secondarily about the closeted life that Mark Foley lived. As the scandal unfolds, there are whispers of other prominent gay Republicans who hide their sexuality.
Presumably these people are terrified they will be outed. They should do themselves a favor and come out on their own. Gay men and women can't really expect to be full members of society -- much less political parties -- until they shed dishonesty, and then they can begin living their lives without shame and fear.
I'm here to tell them: It's a much better way to be.