Darian Aaron: The church of OUT

Inspiration can come when you least expect it. Despite my reputation for being outspoken, I was fully prepared to forego an editorial in this issue. My personal mantra has always been to speak or write only when I have something meaningful to contribute to a conversation or a cause. But something happened: something that I only describe as the equivalent of what I witnessed growing up in the black church, when someone got “happy” or filled with the spirit, and their only recourse was to scream “Hallelujah!” or dance in the aisle.This something was not a church service, but it very well could have been. After a long hiatus, the Stand Up and Represent March returned to Atlanta’s historic West End during Black Gay Pride, and as long-time Atlanta activist Anthony Antoine delivered his spoken word piece, “OUT,” he rivaled the cadence of any ordained minister I’ve ever known or the call and response of the many congregations I’ve sat in during my lifetime. I suddenly found myself wrestling with keeping my distance as a journalist or completely surrendering to the “spirit.”

“Cause I’m out, O-U-T

For the whole world to see

It’s no longer my problem

But for y’all to deal"

As spoken by Antoine to a crowd of people in a neighborhood often categorized as hostile toward LGBT people, those words punctured my core. His words reverberated around the space as onlookers stopped, listened, and took notice.

“It’s no longer my problem, but for y’all to deal.”

That is an indescribable gift; the moment when freedom and self-acceptance moves beyond the hypothetical into reality. When we as LGBT people dare to exercise self-care. When we begin to believe the truth about who we are versus the lies and shame projected onto us by those who wish to dim our light. It’s a gift that I wish for all of my LGBT brothers and sisters. But beyond that, it’s a gift that I constantly pray society will make room for. If not, let it be the gift that we boldly reclaim.

"Harvey Milk once said, “Coming out is the most political thing you can do.”

It can also be one of the most frightening. Despite all the gains our community has made, even in 2015, gay youth, LGBT people of color, and trans folk remain our most vulnerable. We have to ensure that when they come out they have somewhere to come to. A safe haven, a surrogate family, a community that will lift them up, even if the only commonality we may share is an existence outside of heteronormative ideals.

I’ve heard every reason why the closet is still necessary and the preferred sanctuary for those who fear the repercussions of living in their truth. And while some of those reasons may carry weight, I can guarantee nothing compares to the weight lifted when you retrieve the power you’d given to maintaining a lie to live instead in truth. And along with that, not giving a damn about who doesn’t agree.

“It’s time to take a stand,

Time to understand,

Time to be a man,

I’ve gots to be who I am.”

I’ve never shouted in church, although I’ve come close. Antoine reminded me that when you offer up your authentic self in spirit and in truth, the universe has no choice but to make room for you. And because I know this to be true, I feel like shouting right now as I did on the day he reaffirmed it.

Excerpts from the poem “OUT” are used in this editorial with permission from Anthony Antoine.