June is pride month (of the GLBT variety) with the San FranciscoÂ festivities taking place this weekend. My last three years worth of vacations have had me out of town over pride weekend, and while I’m undecided about the extent of my participation in the upcoming weekend activities, I want to take advantage of not being on vacation to write about being out as aÂ Realtor in San Francisco.
I’ll preface this by saying that upon arriving in San Francisco, I was already out. Some quick background: the puzzle pieces of my sexual orientation fell into place right around my 21st birthday when I was living in Austin, TX, and in the space of a few months I quickly outed myself to friends, my employer, and family (in pretty much that order). Every coming out story is different, and the best I can offer to explain why I came out so directly, thoroughly and quickly was a intuition that while I was risking friendships, employment and relationships, it was far more important to be honest and lose what was false than to continue holding on to a relationship premised on a lie. I also had the resources (financial, emotional) to take this risk and would be able to care for myself even in a worst case outcome (being fired, cut off from family, losing a best friend, etc.). I don’t say this to brag, but to remind us all that even in 2011 many GLBT persons don’t have those resources – so I’m not going to judge the actions of anyone else against my circumstances.
You might say being openly gay as a San Francisco Realtor is no big deal. You might think that being gay in San Francisco is about as unique as being Catholic in the Vatican City. Yet even in San Francisco, where the gay community is much more visible and numerous than in many other cities and parts of the world, we are still a minority population. Although a very vocal, organized and – as a result – “well-protected” community. Gay bashings still happen in the Castro to this day. Discrimination still determines the outcome of promotions. Stereotypes still subtly influence thoughts and opinions. Prop 8 is the law of my land. In 41 years of SF gay pride marches we have come forward and outward an incredible distance, but lets not kid ourselves: no matter how you define it the proverbial “finish line” for LGBT equality remains on the horizon and probably will for theÂ foreseeableÂ future.
I love working with clients of every variety (well, except the assholes who get fired soon enough) and background, and I’ve always been direct and open about my sexual orientation. Has this cost me business? Has it gained me business? My honest answer is it doesn’t matter and I don’t care. I’d like to believe that for every potential client that chose someone else because of my sexual orientation I gained at least one for the same reason. But like I said, regardless of the math it doesn’t matter.
What matters – to me – is that I get to wake up every morning and look in the mirror and be happy that my life as a Realtor on the outside reflects who I am on the inside. What matters is that I never have to worry about keeping my story “straight” or fumbling over pronouns at a business mixer. My husband is not my partner, friend, roommate, or significant other, he is, quite simply, my husband (yes, we tied the matrimonial knot during that brief window when we could in 2008, although we also did it during the winter of love in 2004 – another story entirely).
Even in the age of social media and the internet, where we live and who our neighbors are plays a huge role in shaping the social fabric of America. It is just as awesome and rewarding to help a straight couple find their dream home in The Castro neighborhood as it is to help a gay couple find their dream home outside of The Castro. Or, put another way, I love helping every client find their dream home regardless of who they are and where it is. Who we are in our private lives still shapes in many ways who we are allowed to be in our public roles. Harvey Milk was absolutely right when he realized – and vocalized – that the sooner we realize the teacher, pilot, or neighbor we run into in the daily course of our lives is gay, and that gay is okay, that we all, gay and non-gay, benefit immensely.
Regardless of who you are, I truly believe that we have more in common than we have differences. The sooner we live that truth, the quicker our society will be a healthier and happier place. To the extent I can live my life as a Realtor with openness and transparency to help make that happen, you can bet your gay flag that is exactly what I’ll be doing. And hopefully, regardless of your difference, you’ll be doing the same.