Courage is a laudable virtue. It is shown by those who act on their beliefs despite dangers and disapproval. But it’s becoming increasingly common to come across sentiments that confuse stupidity with courage. In the dynamic between out-gay-men and closeted-gay-men, the out-gay-man occupies the virtuous space of the brave. He has gone through the formidable task of revealing his reproached sexuality to the world. The closeted-gay-man is a coward. He timidly dances to the tune of those who sing his disapproval and have fraught his path with danger. The closeted man should, as the sentiment goes, (be made to) emulate his counterpart and live out and proud, irrespective of his unique situation.
Though its important to celebrate the good of courage it is also important to resist the insistence that the ‘courageous’ act of coming out is a must. Because it isn’t. Anything that rests within the prerogative of a person depends on choice. To insist a person take a particular course of action is to deny that person choice.
Great Athenian Philosopher, Aristotle, offered a fine blueprint for which we might use to adopt virtues: through the acknowledgment that too much of anything produces its opposite effect; Virtues must be served through what is called the “Golden Mean”. In this template, the virtue of courage lies center in the continuum spanning from cowardice to rashness. Courage can be good but in its counter-extremes it can produce ill effects.
Some of us feel a need to come out, sometimes to perfect strangers. We carry the sense that coming out is a must and to dismiss this sense is a demonstration of cowardice. Our motives arise from two reasons:
- We have nothing to hide when it comes to our sexuality
- Coming out is a demonstration of having nothing to hide
But it’s important to understand a difference exists between having something to hide and being made to believe one has something to hide. An understanding of this difference offers protection from making timid or rash decisions. In some ways being made to believe one has something to hide is (a way) to threaten ones choice: a manipulative tactic to get one to reveal bits of life that would within normal circumstances lie in the realm of the personal and private. Aspirational messages, fear or peer pressure all push us to decide one way or another by appealing to our irrational desires. They make it easy to forget we have the liberty of choice, how we choose to live our lives is our prerogative.
Being able to have clear responses to why we take actions is one of the most useful method a person can adopt to the condition of living. It ensures the decisions we take happen on our own terms. It allows us to stand for what we believe in in the capacity that we can accommodate. It throws light unto the manipulative sway of the crowd, helping us to stay aligned to our beliefs.
A closeted-gay-man married to a heterosexual woman may come across as a coward but it’s only because we have projected the conditions of our lives unto his own life, dismissing details that would narrate the perfect story guiding his choices. Our place isn’t to label our compariots socially demeaning names, our place is to offer guidance with the wisdom that it’s impossible to witness change at the drop of a hat. Virtuous development takes time, practice and encouragement. In line with Aristotle’s thoughts, voiced through modern Swiss Philosopher Alain de Botton, people who lack virtue should be understood as unfortunate rather than wicked, what they need isn’t scoulding or [to be thrown into social] prison but better teachers and more guidance.
In our efforts to convince others of the need to come out we should do away we absurb sentiments suggesting disregard for our unique situations. As persons, we should become intimate with our own unique conditions aligning ourselves to virtuous ends with sensibility. Our decisions fall back on us all the time, rarely on distant crowds of the self-righteous.
You are Awesome.