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I’d rather be hated for who I am rather than loved for who I am not.
I ran across the above saying on a tee shirt a couple years ago. It’s always stuck with me, and it’s a principle I try to keep in mind when I live my life. It’s an important principle when faced with the decision of whether or not to live as an openly gay man. It’s a principle I want to discuss as a part of my contribution to National Coming Out Day.
One of the big hurdles to coming out — whether in general or to specific people — is the fear of rejection. There’s that fear — and sometimes, it’s a well-founded fear — that friends, family members, bosses, and other individuals will reject us, stop loving us, and even make our lives miserable. Personally, I’ve often found it far easier to come out to a perfect stranger. After all, if they reject me, I’ve lost no relationship or support. However, I maintain that remaining in the closet in order to get someone to continue to love and accept me isn’t a good reason to stay in the closet.
I wish to be clear on what I am saying there, lest it be misconstrued. Staying in the closet so that someone loves me is not the same as not coming out to my parents because I’m financially dependent on them. Nor is it the same as hiding my sexual orientation from my boss so that I don’t get fired. In those cases, I would not be staying closeted in order to get the people in question to continue loving me. I would be doing it in order to survive. I could survive without my parents’ love relatively easily — sadly, some kids do it all their lives. But there was a time when it would’ve been much harder to survive if my parents quit buying me food and clothes or stopped providing me with a place to sleep and keep warm.
The thing is, there are billions of people on this planet. And a great many number of them will love me and accept me for who I am, gay man and all. I’ve been fortunate in that over the years, I’ve found and built friendships with plenty of them. Indeed, I’ve made far more new and incredibly supportive friends than I have lost old friends.
So I see no point in remaining in the closet to keep those “friends” who refuse to accept me for who I am. Truth be told, if I have to lie to them to keep them as loved ones, then they are not truly loved ones at all. I learned long ago that as much as it may hurt, I’m better off letting such people go and finding people who will not only accept me for who I am, but actually prefer me to be authentically me.
So yes, I’d rather be hated for who I am than hated for who I am not. But I have a third, even better option. I can find people who love me for who I am.
 And I’m pretty sure it would apply to other QUILTBAG people too.
 I am fortunate in that this was never an issue for me. While it did take my parents time to adjust, they never rejected or disowned me. Sadly, not every QUILTBAG individual has been so fortunate.
 Note, also that came a going when I no longer needed my parents’ financial support. And that’s the thing about valid reasons to stay in the closet: they are more often than not temporary and something that can eventually be overcome. Granted, finding a new boss who isn’t homophobic in today’s economy may seem like a near-impossibility….