In the winter of 1993, while a senior in college, I took a bus to Mount Holyoke College to see Gloria Steinem speak. I could write paragraph after paragraph on how Steinem inspires me but that's for another post. (And also the fact that that same morning, I went to see Angela Davis speak on my own campus. What a day that was.) At the end of her speech, Ms. Steinem told everybody to commit an outrageous act in the next few days, no matter how big or small it was. This was based upon the title of her book, "Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions," which is still in print and should be read by everybody.
All I could picture was me standing on a table in the dining hall, a la Norma Rae, holding a sign about ... what? What would I be protesting? I certainly had a lot of ideas those days. I was reading some radical 60s literature, a recent convert to feminism and one angry young man. But I never did commit that outrageous act and I felt guilty for years. I had the chance to see Steinem speak again nine years later and did get up to ask her a question but did not reveal that I'd let her down all those years ago.
Just the other day, a Facebook friend and former coworker posted in his status update that he was bisexual and if you couldn't deal with it, too bad. It was one helluva outrageous act. He is around the age I was when I first came out publicly (I started when I was 16 in 1988 but the real push came when I was 19) and I, jaded me, was impressed and extremely moved by this. To do it so publicly and so boldly, he basically WAS pulling a Norma Rae. When I came out, I had to go the old-fashioned, pre-internet route of telling one person at a time, year to year. But this coming out on Facebook... this was something else. It was amazing; the equivalent of telling a crowded auditorium. Even more amazing was the outpouring of support he got. Some things haven't changed (the desire for people to stay closeted due to society) but many things have (people's reactions... I had a rough time, lost some friendships, it wasn't easy) have.
I came out a long time ago and, of course, as these things happen, life didn't go according to plan. I didn't fall in love immediately, I didn't become fabulous. I wasn't an A-Gay who vacationed on Fire Island and had a swell little apartment in Chelsea. I stayed the same guy I always had been and that disappointed me somewhat. I had thought my life would change forever and I'd be an entirely new person. I stayed on being Ed Aycock, always feeling so ordinary, listening to my folk music, loving my soaps, reading bad novels and good books. And I've made a LOT of mistakes along the way, not the least of which was the 1994 habit of wearing a denim shirt with blue jeans. What was I thinking?
Yesterday, I was talking with another coworker who was going on about a million different things, as he is wont to do. One thing he touched upon is how the American people want everything cozy and still hate nonconformity and difference. I agreed. And then today it hit me that I never have tried to fit into anybody's preconceived notions; I never tried to be who I wasn't. So perhaps all along I have been committing my outrageous acts. I haven't let Gloria Steinem down after all. What a relief.