Some people said they knew, some people said they always knew. That felt odd, it felt odd to be told that someone always knew something that you didn't always know, especially because what they knew was about you. Or, at least, they always thought they knew. And now turned out to be right. Because you were now telling them they were right.
A new and gay minister, at his first meeting with parish council, was delighted to meet me, how good to know, he later told me, how good he thought, there's at least one other gay man here. A woman, partnered with another woman, recounts her first introduction to me, years ago, at a party, I liked the gay guy, she told her partner later that night, he was funny. He's married, she informed her.
Oh, I always knew that, says the wife of a cousin. A longtime friend, we were work colleagues as well as family friends, I always thought that, she tells me. A friend from graduate school, we are seated at a table in a small, hip restaurant, I am spilling the beans, and he tells me, my wife and I, when we got the invitation to your wedding, so many years ago, we opened it, looked at each other and said, well, I hope he knows what he is doing.
It's odd, really, odd how everyone knows what you don't know. Or aren't sure about. Or haven't settled with. Because of course they didn't really know. They only thought they knew. They could have been wrong and only thought they knew better. But now, now you are telling them they were right.
Harvey Milk saw it as political action. Our duty, really, our political duty to cause change. "You must come out, " he challenged us,
Come out... to your parents... I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives... come out to your friends... if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors... to your fellow workers... to the people who work where you eat and shop... come out only to the people you know, and who know you. Not to anyone else. But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake. For the sake of the youngsters...
Well, he may have been right, and perhaps it sways votes. But I know I never saw it that way, not then, and maybe not now. I may have been telling them, I may have been coming out, I may have been telling them what some of them already thought they knew, but it was mine to tell. Or not to tell. And just as I wanted the right to tell them when and if I chose, I also wanted the right to know whether it was true or not.
They were sure. They knew. But they didn't really know. They only thought they knew.