Cheryl Chow’s political life in Seattle has ended and, in not such a long time, her life likely will end too. She’s dying of brain cancer, so, at this stage of her life — after 60 years of service — she came out as a lesbian. When asked why she waited, she cites being unsure of the Chinese community’s reaction.
Say what you will about the importance of everyone coming out (and, as I’ve mentioned before, I agree, but know that everyone’s situation is different), and say that she should have done it sooner, but imagine — it’s probably not a stretch for some of us — feeling like you are carrying the weight of entire community. A community you promised to serve. A community that has been misunderstood and seen its fair share of racism in this country. Perhaps, just perhaps, the closet door is just that much heavier with the weight of history and a community behind it. I’m not saying that Cheryl Chow should have remained in the closet, but neither am I saying she should have come out a long time ago. It’s not my place. It’s not any of ours. Her reasons are hers, and her own regrets are heavier than anyone else’s for her could be…or should be.
After decades of service, she’s come out now. There are two important pieces to that sentence. Chow served for decades (and continues to do so in other capacities). And, she came out. Period.
If we condemn each other for not coming out, and the criticize each other when we do, saying it’s not enough, or it’s too late/slow, or whatever, are we any better than those who would keep us in the closet? Aren’t we, in some ways, accomplishing something very similar? If we want everyone to come out, we must embrace and support the differences, the ones — like culture, age, or economic status — that can keep us in the closet. No one should have to serve for 60 years and feel regrets for time wasted. Embrace the time, embrace the service and embrace the fact that Cheryl Chow is out now, that she’s speaking out. It’s never too late to do more good, right?