Gay Rights: Don’t worry about being late to the party. We’ve saved you a seat!

Have you ever been late to a party and decided not to go. Oh sure, you might really want to go, but the thought of walking in, of everyone looking at you and wondering where you’ve been all this time, of folks talking amongst themselves about you, it’s just too much. So you skip it. You just stay home.

Imagine if going to that very party might change your life. What if going to that party might cause some people to decide that they can no longer be your friend, or have you in their home. What if going to that party could cost you your job. Imagine if there was a chance that going to this party might even cost you members of your family . . .can you even begin to imagine how hard it would be to take those steps through that doorway.

No, it’s not a party and I don’t mean to make light of it because coming out is something that every person has to do in their own time, in their own way. I’m not gay, I haven’t had that experience, but I love enough people who have to know what it often cost them. I have had enough of my own struggles to know judgment and fear. I have had the life that I knew change completely in an instant when truth came to the surface.  Walking through that doorway is hard.

Folks have been awfully hard on Congressman Mike Michaud about his decision to come out at this point in his career, for this race. I think we need to go a little easier on him, but I couldn’t possibly word how I feel about that any better than my friend Cara Pelletier did online this week.

Cara said “As someone who came out relatively recently, I find the criticism of Mike Michaud’s recent coming out to be a bit …harsh. 15 years ago, I wouldn’t have voted for gay marriage either. I grew up in a conservative religious household. I went to a Southern Baptist university. I’m sure I also had opportunities along the way to be a leader for LGBT rights that I didn’t take, whether out of fear, cowardice or simple denial. Today, I’m married to a (fantastic!) woman. I’m a member of the Board of Directors for an LGBT organization. I’m a passionate advocate for civil rights. I may have been late to the party, but I’m here.

In life, how long it takes you to get somewhere often depends on where you start. I’m not going to judge the pace or path of someone who started in a different generation, a different family, a different life than mine. I have no idea how Mike got to the party, but for his sake I’m glad he’s here. You’re right – he hasn’t been a hero for LGBT rights. His voting record proves it. But it doesn’t mean he can’t be an advocate now. I sure hope he takes this opportunity to use his campaign for good. We still have a lot of work to do for LGBT rights in Maine.

People change – THANK GOODNESS, people change. I’m thankful that there are people in my life who are willing to meet me where I am today instead of telling me who I should have been years ago. It’s because of their grace and compassion that I’m able to extend that same compassion to others. My vote will likely be undecided for months, but it’s my hope that, win or lose, Mike finds himself a better, more honest person on the other side of this campaign.” Thank you Cara!

We all deserve the chance to learn and grow. In the words of Maya Angelou “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

What are people saying, if you don’t learn love and acceptance of yourself and others by a certain age it’s just too late? No, no, it is never too late. It is never too late for love and acceptance and it is never too late for truth.

For some folks, this is a political issue. It’s a theoretical debate. It’s a religious debate. Like armchair quarterbacks they can sit around and yell at those on the screen because they don’t have any skin in the game.

For Mike Michaud this isn’t a game. This is his life. This is his family. This is his struggle and his path. Let’s welcome him to the table because behind him, lingering in the doorway, are many others trying to gather the courage to join us. Let’s not scare them away.

Karen Foley

About Karen Foley

Karen Foley, has successfully been writing her blog for the BDN since May 2011. By successful, she means a few people read it, and she has not been sued, stalked or fired since starting it.