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Views & Voices

This holiday season, share your gay gifts with the world

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Like many other LGBT people, I grew up thinking that I was all alone in the world. I knew of no other gay folks, either out or closeted, and the absence of role models likely contributed to my sense of solitude. It didn’t help that within my own dysfunctional family I had my own secrets to keep about who I was, creating a wall between me and them.

In those pre-internet days, I would scour every book and newspaper in hopes of finding the slightest reference that someone else might be gay like me.

gay-giftsI have fond memories of watching The King Family TV holiday specials in the 1960s and 70s, where a large family of varied talents would gather together in a faux living room to sing and spread holiday cheer.

There was something so nurturing about the bonds the family seemed to share, which gave me not only comfort, but an idea of what family could actually be.

Still, while I wanted to be a part of that family — to be loved and valued as one of its own — I didn’t see myself reflected in the faces staring back. Would it have made a difference to have known that one of the King Family was actually gay?

King Family member Cam Clarke was then only a child himself, but would go on to be a sought after voice-over artist and out gay man later in life.

Indeed, as we celebrate the holiday season, it is difficult to separate the season from the LGBT individuals who helped contribute to it through their creations of song and craft.

You can’t get through the holidays without catching a refrain from one of renowned vocalist Johnny Mathisí countless Christmas classics, yet how many will know that Mathis is an out gay man?

Think of the dazzling ornaments created by famed designer Christopher Radko, also a gay man.

Indeed, in towns all across America, audiences will flock to see ballet performances of The Nutcracker, unaware that its composer, Tchaikovsky, was gay.

Writers as unique as Truman Capote and David Sedaris have shared Christmas memories through their books. Victorian poet Christina Georgina Rossetti’s “In the Bleak Midwinter” and “Love Came Down at Christmas” were both turned into popular Christmas carols, but most people do not know that her brother later burned the love poems that she’d written to women.

Even as we shop through the malls, buying gifts for one another as Wham!’s “Last Christmas” plays in the background, most are likely not aware that the founders of Stonewall Kitchen, makers of tasty gourmet food items, are gay, or that Tim Cook, president of the ever-popular Apple company, creators of iTunes, iPads, and iPhones, is also gay.

Yet how much more powerful would it be if LGBT people proudly claimed our history, calling it out, and coming out ourselves in the process? We all have certain gifts to contribute to the world, both large and small, but key to giving is to give authentically, as out and proud LGBT men and women.

The most famous painting in the world, the Mona Lisa, was painted by a gay man, Leonardo da Vinci. The Sistine Chapel ceiling was painted by another, Michelangelo.

One of history’s most successful commanders, Alexander the Great, was gay. Gertrude Stein, of “a rose is a rose is a rose” fame, was lesbian, as are tennis greats Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova.

One of the most popular plays in America, the quintessential Our Town, was written by a gay man, Thornton Wilder, and one has to wonder how being gay shaped his views on small town life.

In my new fiction collection, Gifts Not Yet Given, the characters (particularly those who are LGBT) are each facing a moment in which their choices and actions will define them, for better or worse. It is that way for each of us; the way in which we choose to operate in the world makes a difference. Do you have a moment to spare to help someone? Do you have stories which might assist others lead better lives? Are you living your life in truth and sharing your gifts with others? What do you have to contribute to society?

This New Years, revelers will celebrate the passing of one year and the dawn of another, and as they do, they may be listening to a popular song being sung by one of the top music superstars of his day. And while many may infer that he is gay, as the singer has yet to come out publicly, his is one gift we can’t yet count.

Tell your story. Live authentically. And make the Yuletide gay…

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14 more reader comments:

  1. I can’t believe I didn’t know about Johnny Mathis…

    Posted on Sunday, December 15, 2013 at 6:35pm
  2. Gay is for life, not just for Christmas. :-P

    Posted on Sunday, December 15, 2013 at 6:35pm
  3. Love this. We do a Gay a Day history series where we highlight a new LGBT person every day. I added a few names, from this article, to our database. Thank you.

    Posted on Sunday, December 15, 2013 at 8:19pm
  4. People ENOUGH already it shouldn’t matter if someone is gay. You should be more concerned about people being like asshole vick or a rapist or serial killer then their sexuality.

    Posted on Sunday, December 15, 2013 at 9:33pm
  5. ^^

    Posted on Sunday, December 15, 2013 at 10:41pm
  6. Live EYERYDAY as if it was Christmas!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 12:00am
  7. slow news day???

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 12:25am
  8. This is extremely important and kids need people they can look to who are like them. As a middle school teacher, I “come out” to my students the first day of each school year. Thank you for posting this.

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 2:27am
  9. my heart…soul…and all my time

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 12:04pm
  10. It breaks my heart that a youth would feel lonely…It really does. The only gifts we all should have for others are to give our acceptance, respect, and love should a youth knock our door (metaphorically speaking) to seek warmth, belonging and love….and not just for Xmas for life.

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 1:37pm
  11. One’s gifts have no connection with one’s sexual orientation. One who is gay often just knows how to use one’s gifts. The person mentions Thorton Wilder and his famous play, “Our Town.” I am Cherokee and I know about a gay author and playwright. Lynn Riggs wrote the historical novel, “Green Grow the Lilacs.” And he even adapted HIS own novel into a Broadway Musical of the same name. And then his Musical play was adapted into the Musical “OKLAHOMA!” Riggs was Cherokee and his home town of Claremore is my home town, too. (I was born in the Cherokee community of Tiawah, south of Claremore, Oklahoma.) Riggs was definitely openly gay when he was not in his home state. That has been documented.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 9:58pm
  12. we’re everywhere buddy! bisexual pride

    Posted on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 11:33pm
  13. #gayfreakingpride love=love

    Posted on Wednesday, December 25, 2013 at 2:30am
  14. Posted on Wednesday, December 25, 2013 at 2:53am