Feb. 4, 2002: If Rosie O’Donnell Can Do it, So Can I

In case you have been busy with mundane stuff like making a living, you may have missed the big news that has the entertainment world in a dither. The popular daytime television talk show host will apparently come out of the closet and proclaim her sexuality. To borrow some show business lingo, Rosie is “outing herself.”

The smart money says she is going to declare she is gay. Whatever she does it will be a huge relief because once she says whatever she’s going to say, we can move on with our lives. I don’t know about you, but wherever I go — be it to the hardware store or Benny’s BP station — this is the only thing people are talking about.

Rosie O’Donnell’s decision places an obligation on the rest of us to undergo a little soul searching of our own. For too many years, I have avoided the subject, but I feel I no longer have that option. After many sleepless nights of wrestling with my own conscience, the time has come for me to out myself.

I am straight.

I am not sure when my tendencies first began to show, but one of my earliest memories is how my heart thumped when I saw Margaret Pittman in the third grade. I had a lot of male friends in the third grade, but none of them looked anywhere near as good as Margaret. In the middle of the year, I was moved to another grammar school. To this day, I don’t know if the move happened because my parents were embarrassed about my preference for girls, but the change was a total failure. I promptly fell in love with Christine Shellnut.

Other signs were obvious, too, if you knew what to look for. I used to dress up like boys. I had a crew cut, wore black high-top Keds and had holes in the knees of all my blue jeans. I played ball and rode bicycles and came home dirty. I learned to scratch and spit. My poor parents must have been mortified at my behavior. Naturally, I became more rebellious as I grew older and even married a person of the opposite sex. Little did I know at the time what ground I was breaking.

Somehow I never thought of myself as a pioneer but just a guy who was being true to his own yin and yang. Yet, I could never muster the courage to come out of the workroom in my garage and publicly confess. Coming out of the closet was never an option for me because all of our closets are full of clothes that someone who shares my name can’t bring herself to throw away.

No doubt I’ll pay a high price to pay for outing myself. I haven’t told my partner of 43 years, although I think she has been suspicious about me from the beginning.

I can forget being invited to the next national Democratic Party celebrity fund raiser in Hollywood. No way are Democrats are going to want a straight white guy hanging around with all the movie stars and rappers.

I’ll watch out for other repercussions as well. Don’t look for Elton John to perform at our Sunday school party next Christmas although — come to think of it — I don’t believe he has come to any of our Sunday school parties in the past. I guess we can forget Ellen Degeneres, too.

But if I am anything, I am a fighter. Now that I am out, the first thing I am going to do is join a straight rights group and protest the popular television sitcom about a gay man, “Will and Grace.” Admittedly, this tactic is not new. I am shamelessly borrowing from the playbook of gay rights groups who intimidated stations into not carrying the “Dr. Laura” syndicated television show. I’m not sure how much success we will have because straights only make up about 90 percent of the population but we have to start somewhere.

I fervently hope that my example will inspire others to admit they are straight. Maybe my golfing buddies at Sea Island will emerge from their lives of quiet torment. Straight is okay. I used to think I could never discuss a sensitive subject like this publicly, but thanks to Rosie, I can and I have and I feel terrific.