I guess it’s appropriate that this quick post is being written on October 11, which is National Coming Out Day, a day meant to highlight one’s self-disclosing of their sexual or gender identity, to celebrate those who are or have come out, and to raise broad awareness of the LGBT community. Though, of course, anyone can choose to come out on any of the other 364 days of the year, this day is selected as a commemoration of the anniversary of a 1987 march on Washington, DC to promote rights for gays and lesbians.
If you’ve chosen to come out to family and friends, whether it be today or any other day of your choosing, congratulations. I sincerely admire you for your braveness and for your being your true self. As for me, I consider myself part of the “questioning” segment of the LGBT spectrum, and I haven’t yet felt brave enough to disclose my sexual or crossdressing identity to others (meaning Allison is safely in the closet to the people I know, although I’ve appeared dressed up to the general public, including just a few weeks ago). Perhaps I will get enough gumption to reveal my LGBT side, though I’m still fearful of how it would affect my relationship with my family.
At least there are so many people who have chosen to come out that those of us in the closet can look up to. This post will highlight a couple of feature interviews I came across this week while listening to The Current, which is a current affairs and interview program that airs on Canada’s CBC Radio One. I’ll talk up the second of those interviews first, which featured these two gentlemen:
That’s longtime Canadian broadcast journalist Kevin Newman, pictured on the left alongside his son, Alex. If that first name sounds familiar to my fellow Americans, he is indeed the same Kevin Newman who worked at ABC News during the mid- and late-1990s, including serving a brief spell as host of Good Morning America. Kevin has had a distinguished journalism career in his native Canada, where he currently works as a co-host and contributor on the CTV newsmagazine W5.
Kevin and Alex appeared on The Current last Tuesday (here’s the link to that interview) to promote and discuss a book they wrote together, the title of which sums up their situation: All Out: A Father and Son Confront The Hard Truths That Made Them Better Men. Kevin’s work and travel demands during Alex’s youth created a bit of a fracture between the two; that their family moved around quite a bit did not help Alex emotionally, nor did being bullied at school and the realization that he may be gay. Things came to a head one Thanksgiving, when Alex, as he recalls in The Current interview, called a post-dinner “family meeting.” Actually, Alex had trouble letting the words come out of his mouth — that he believed he may be gay — but Kevin started to suspect from his son’s body language at that moment, and that truly emotional moment would lead to a feeling of father-to-son support.
It would also lead to an evolution in the relationship between Kevin and Alex. Kevin would learn to become the father of an openly gay son, seeking out research and support on the new role he now found himself in, all the while striving to rebuild and strengthen bridges between him and Alex. A more positive relationship between Kevin and Alex would grow, although Kevin would have to admit to his uneasiness of having a gay son, including a moment he recounts in The Current interview about an uneasy feeling he had seeing Alex embracing a man he was dating. Kevin’s uneasiness led him to confront the possibility that he may not be as accepting as he may have led others and himself to believe.
Kevin and Alex Newman are now on stronger terms, and it led to them writing All Out together. Well, sort of together, as Kevin and Alex would write parallel narratives, which they did not share to each other during the writing process. As Alex confided in a recent interview with the magazine Macleans, this writing approach was “pretty terrifying,” with him wondering what Kevin would write that he did not fully know; Kevin added that the approach of asking “How did I do as a father?” and then revealing the results to the world was a hard thing to do.
The Newmans’ interview is well worth listening. Perhaps their story and All Out will indeed lead to a hope of Kevin’s: That fathers will seek guidance and advice for strengthening bonds with their own sons when they come out, something Kevin says he couldn’t find when Alex came out. By the way, in addition to the interviews with Macleans and The Current that I’ve linked above, Kevin also discussed his issues with his son as part of a 2013 W5 profile he did of an Ottawa area youth hockey player openly living as a gay male. (The videos accompanying that write-up may not be available to everyone in the states, though an alternate YouTube link is here; still, Kevin’s thoughts are themselves worth reading.)
The other Current interview I want to mention aired one day before the Newmans’ appearance (last Monday). This interview was of Al Rae, who is a prominent stand-up comic and artistic director of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival. Rae is no stranger to CBC Television or CBC Radio One, having co-created the former’s sitcom Little Mosque on the Prairie as well as appearing on the latter’s humorous debate program The Debaters. Al Rae came out as a transgender woman over the summer, and is now Lara Rae (that’s her pictured to the right). Lara had been discussing her transition while promoting a recent adaptation of Edward II by Winnipeg’s Theatre by the River, on which she served as assistant director.
Lara Rae appeared on The Current (that interview link is right here) to discuss her transition, a subject that also played a prominent part of a separate interview with CBC Winnipeg when discussing Edward II. Lana, when she was still Al, came out as queer in 2013, ending a 23-year marriage and starting a new chapter of his career, which added a new chapter with her transitioning to Lara. She comments that she has received good support from colleagues in the performing arts industry during her transition, citing in particular her close friend and the director of Edward II, Sarah Constible. To highlight that, I highlight this quote from Lara’s CBC Winnipeg interview: “In order to do this, you need a person in your life to be with you through thick and thin. Sarah has been.” That’s a powerful thing to be supported in your transition by a peer.
That’s not to say Lara’s transition has been easy. She mentions early thoughts about not being born in the right body, and of her decision to transition feeling like a large weight was lifted from her. Harsh words from bigots have been hurled her way as well. But Lara, being the comedian that she is, appears to have handled her transition and the reactions with good-natured humor. That humor, I imagine, will certainly be helpful during the difficult moments that will certainly still come her way.
Take time to check out Lara Rae’s Current and CBC Winnipeg interviews linked above (yes, they are accessible in the States). Some background about her Edward II project can be found here from the Winnipeg Free Press, which also features a sidebar about her transition and an “autobiographical play” she wrote for Sarah Constible, who essentially played Lara Rae (that show was called One Man’s Show, which Lara penned before beginning her transition).
And if you’re in Canada reading this, here’s hoping you take the time this Thanksgiving weekend to check out both of these features and these three amazing people. Seriously, check it out even if you must pull yourself from the dinner table or the Allouettes’ game to do so. Oh, by the way… when you check out the Current interview with Lara Rae (here it is again), take time to check out an old interview from CBC’s archives at the bottom of that page (or access it here if need be). That interview is with Dianna Boileau, who was the first Canadian to undergo gender reassignment surgery, in 1970. The interview was with CBC Television in 1972; however, it never aired as it was deemed too controversial at the time. Oh, boy, times sure have changed since then (and changed for the better).