Coming Out: Whose Call is it Anyway?

Imagine that one day you have planned to attend an event for a famous person. Maybe it’s an intimate concert where only a few hundred are attending. Or a book signing by your favorite author who is at a convention with hundreds of people. Or even a rally for a foreign dignitary you respect. Someone else who is in attendance at that same event has murder on the brain. Doesn’t matter who they are. Doesn’t matter why they intend to kill the person on whom the spotlight shines. All that matters is that they are there to end a life and you just happen to be next to this person at the event. Without thinking, as soon as you see this person’s arm go up to take aim, you grab their arm, thereby preventing the death of said famous person.

With all of those people there, someone is bound to notice what has happened and that you saved a life. They may, for a time, think you had something to do with it, but in the end, you’re hailed as a hero. Within hours of the authorities releasing you after being satisfied you managed to prevent the murder, the media is learning all they can about you. They learn about your years of service in the military, which of course, can only brighten the light shining upon you now. However, they continue to dig, because the media are never satisfied until they’ve turned over every rock and sifted through every grain of dirt available about you. In that digging they discover that you are homosexual. Only problem is that only some of the people in your life know that you are homosexual. The people you know and work with know and your friends, of course, but not your family, your parents.

That one act of heroism has put you in the spotlight in a way you never imagined. Suddenly, the entire country, and probably the world, knows that you are gay, including your parents. You have no say in the matter. The LGBT community is thrilled with your actions because that proves that despite what Conservative Christians believe, LGBT people are not the bad guy. The media are protected due to the First Amendment Right of Freedom of the Press. Doesn’t matter to them if you wanted to be outed or not. All that matters is that everyone knows that this famous person was saved and that the world must know every intimate detail of your life. You have no say in the matter.

So how would you feel if this happened to you? Does the LGBT community have the right to use you or any one of us as the face of the movement without our consent? Where does privacy begin and the right of others to know end? What would you do if you were in this situation? Would knowing that this happened to someone for real make you think twice before trying to save a life?

This scenario has basis in reality. It happened to a man called Oliver Sipple when he happened to be near a rally for President Ford on September 22, 1975 where he prevented a woman, Sara Jane Moore, from assassinating the president. Mr Sipple was a decorated US Marine and a Vietnam Veteran. He was also gay. He sued a collection of media companies for outing him against his will, but in the end he lost. I feel he’s definitely a pioneer for the LGBT community, even though it was against his will to be so defined.

I heard Mr Sipple’s story on the NPR programme Radiolab. You can listen to it on this page where you scroll down to his name.

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