Coming Out


NewNowNext covered Connor Franta’s coming out vlog.

Didn’t know who Connor Franta was?


He’s a YouTube star, and he just came out on… well, YouTube.

This is important to (almost) everyone.

It is important to every gay man or woman; to every brother or sister of every gay man or woman. It is important to every father, mother, son, daughter, cousin, aunt, teacher, friend, boss, colleague and, and, and – of every gay man or woman.

I can’t speak for gay women, but as a guy, I will say this:

It is the most intimate experience that a gay man will trip, in his lifetime, ever.

Yes… including that.

I wasn’t 30 seconds into Connor’s video before the Universe reminded me how momentous that rite of passage was.

Goosebumpcoveredbodywithalumpinyourthroatyounoticeonlyafterwetcheeks will do that to you.

It’s a rite of passage only some human beings have to do, but do – we have to.

Watching Connor’s vlog – 12 years after my pursuant of peace (and forgetting too quickly, clearly) – I was inclined to fake-stifle that ‘really?’ giggle…

Jejune. And vapid, I know.

To Connor, this is his moment.

Like mine was then: a mountainous monotony of perdition, immovable before me.

The ultimate tollgate.

And there is no alternate route to where you must arrive.

You can picnic where you are or pretend you’d actually wanted to veer off and go on some other trail… Whatever! When you’re ready, you must turn yours through the tollgate.

It really is a big deal

It is. So we mark-time while we figure– or try to figure it all out.

As a mature teen an insolate brat, I settled into the following theory:

Why should I have to sit my parents down and tell them that I am gay when my sister doesn’t have to do the same – just because she’s not? She doesn’t have to gather herself before them, hands in lap, chin on chest and clear her throat before murmuring: ‘Mom… Dad… I like boys.’

So? What’s the big deal? Why should I have to?

For the record – it was no surprise. Obviously. But that’s not the point, because it didn’t negate the need for the occasion from either/all sides.

So here’s the thing: I did have to. We do have to.

A hundred years from now, society’s evolution may make this topic a complete nonentity.

I hope so. But we’re not there.

The world my parents grew up in was different to mine. Radically. And thankfully so.

We amortize that gap as we evolve, but that is as gradual as the days are long, so I am living inside of it – still. As is my Mom. As is my Dad. And although I felt like a lone ranger, I now know that I never was.

Everyone close enough to see enough lived/s inside of it too.

So I did have to.

We do have to.

That’s how family works.

Your journey may feel like your own, but you are the best-supporting actor in somebody else’s (and in that role because of how they rate you as a human being). And inside of themselves, they’re going as mad wanting to hear what you are wanting to say ~ and mostly just because they love you so.

That’s how family works.

Sidebar: If your reality involved reactions of the very grave and desperately sad opposite, then know this – they were going as mad wanting to hear what you were wanting to say, only to grant release of the cowardice they cannot command themselves.

Still, you have to.

We have to.

That’s why it’s such a big deal

Everything before it makes Galileo look like a lazy lout and Columbus’ sojourn seem casual by comparison… But it’s all perspective, right?

Ergo… thank you Connor.

Twelve years on and I can safely say: I needed that.

“You can’t not think about it…” he says.


You can’t. I still can’t – even now.

It’s what’s called ‘identity’ – and is proof that each of ours is unique to us.

Everything pre– was rooted in isolation, depression and obsession.

Everything after has been varying scales of exhalation, anticipation and obsession.

(Yes. Some things just change shape.)

Connor’s video – brought to his global audience with speed because of the digital devices we’ve embraced, and, whether self-serving or journey – is his intricate installation and to date, the ultimate cultural coup.

Cultural, whether seen by 1 or one billion, because it will motivate, move and magnify emotions – whichever way they may lean…

And for what it’s worth, it is one more story for the very beautiful, isolated and obsessed pre-tollgate human beings to hang hope upon.

G-d knows… I needed stories like that.

And there will never be enough.

So to every out gay man or woman – and to the brothers and sisters of out gay men and women; to the fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, cousins, aunts, teachers, friends, bosses, colleagues – and, and, and – reach out.

We have to. Not because we ‘have to’ …

…but because we have it, to.

My looking back gives me the gut-great grasp of this:

There is a profoundly infinite difference between define and confine.

“At some point, you have to make a decision. Boundaries don’t keep other people out.
They fence you in.
Life is messy. That’s how we’re made.
So, you can waste your lives drawing lines.
Or you can live your life crossing them.”

― Shonda Rhimes

© Dylan Balkind

89 Random Acts of Kindness

Two NFL players have ‘come out’ in support of the LGBT community. This doesn’t mean they’re learning the lyrics to I Will Survive nor that they’ve submitted their applications to drive the Pope’s little bulletproof Cinderella cart. It just means that they respect the humanity in you and I because each respects the humanity in himself.

Brendon Ayanbadejo and Chris Kluwe were born and raised in homes with parents who taught them to think for themselves, treat everybody fairly and defend their opinions with gusto. It’s a bitter-sweet celebration because this shouldn’t really make headline news – it shouldn’t have to. But until we live in some sort of tolerant Utopia, we will always need stories like this to protect the bashed and defend the brave.

To prove his unwavering support for equality, Brendon donated a pair of tickets to a gay marriage fundraiser, which made a fourth term Maryland Politician go all Mel Gibson on his efforts. The oh so honourable Emmet Burns sent a letter to Brendon’s team manager demanding that he “…take the necessary action … to inhibit such expressions from your employee,” before ending off his love letter by adding: “I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing.”

I know of no other person that thinks fishing is sexy but that doesn’t mean this glorious pastime doesn’t exist. Ergo, this unwitting Emmet is the same guy who got into a fight with a tow truck driver in 1999. Now I’m not down with the sub culture of tow truck drivers in the US, but let’s just say that here in South Africa, anyone who picks a fight with a tow truck driver is just stupid. So is anyone who names their child Emmet. So, perhaps it’s not all his fault that he grew up to be a complete boil.

But fret not for Emmet. I think I’ve found him someone to hold hands with on the straights-only playground. This talented tulip posed stoically in the lush forest of loserville, dressed in her hardcore K-mart tee and delivered her best Eminem impression.

She and “author” E.L. James should hang out together and fall into an open manhole. They’re as progressive as our very own fearless leader, the turtle, who said this week that we “…should not lose faith in our own humanity and collective ability to correct the wrongs we see in our country.” I think he’s onto something there. The murder, rape and hijacking statistics sure prove it.

So with cupcakes like these, it’s an absolute pleasure to hear good news stories about people committed to doing and being good examples. Samantha Manns is an 18 year old Ohio teen who since the passing of her 89 year old grandmother, is committed to honouring her memory by performing 89 Random Acts of Kindness. Her first was to pay the bill for the car behind hers in a drive through.

They cried.

Times are hard.

Who knows what their story is or what happened in their day before they got into that queue for food.

We need more random acts of kindness, South Africa. Could you think about yours – maybe even doing just one a week? It makes what Emmet and that poetic poepol fill their days with look like an absolute waste of time to me.


© Dylan Balkind

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