Im digging around in the catchall nightmare storage closet, in desperate search of a warm sweater, when I come across a tangle of legs, arms and silky hair. Granted, the legs are each about six inches long and somewhat rubbery, but its still kind of unnerving.
Even more unnerved is the Lizard of Fun, who, upon noticing what Ive discovered, leaps away from a repeat episode of "Will and Grace" and dodges into the closet with me.
"Its not what you think," says the Lizard, frantically shoving the orgy of Barbie dolls back into a cardboard box. "I mean, its, well, it is a bunch of Barbies. But, um, yeah, ysee, Im keeping them for a friend "
I look at the Lizard with a mixture of surprise and amusement. "Youre friends with a Girl Scout?" I ask. "Or the guys who got sued by Mattel for using Barbies name on a pornography Web site?"
"Well, she was originally modeled after a German prostitute doll," says the Lizard, hastily pulling my winter sweater over a Barbie dressed in an electrical-tape bondage costume.
I shake my head. "Why the sudden interest in plastic fashion dolls, anyway?" I ask. "I thought I was the only one with a Barbie fetish."
The Lizard sighs. "All right. It was going to be a surprise, but I guess I can tell you. National Coming Out Day is October 11. I was going to make a Barbie Comes Out display for you. Say, have you seen my Earring Magic Ken anywhere?"
"I think he ran off with your Tinky Winky doll," I say. "You know, its funny you mention it. Ive been thinking a lot about Coming Out Day lately."
"Really?" says the Lizard. "Are you going to tell everyone that you like girls?"
"And boys," I add. "And lizards, too, for that matter, but dont let it go to your head."
"Oh," says the Lizard. "Well, Im not looking for a relationship right now, but we can still be friends "
"Stop it," I say. "What I mean is, I was talking to Jeff Montgomery, executive director of the Triangle Foundation. He was telling me a lot about why its important for gay people to come out."
For one thing, notes Montgomery, the more people who come out as gay, or lesbian, or bisexual, or transgendered, the more open society becomes toward peoples sexual orientation.
"That, as Martha says, is a Good Thing," says the Lizard.
"As people come out, it really, really changes attitudes," affirms Montgomery. All of a sudden, everyone knows someone whos gay, and its no longer a big deal.
Montgomery also believes that coming out is not just a personal issue, but that its also a moral and ethical issue. By coming out, he says, "Ultimately youre living a more honest, open life."
"Yeah, open to violence and freaks taking potshots at you," says the Lizard. "Its no wonder people worry about it."
Montgomery explains that even though there are risks involved with coming out, its also an important political move in the fight toward equal rights.
"For the longest time," he says, "theres been this fantasy in the gay community, especially among activists, that on Coming Out Day, at noon, everyone gay turned purple for five minutes. People would look around, and thered be all these purple people around them."
The Lizard nods enthusiastically. "Now that would be fun. Profuse purple people would certainly brighten up a dull afternoon."
"Well, look at popular culture," I say. "In some ways, its easier than ever to be gay, as long as youre also rich and famous."
Montgomery agrees. "Theres all these characters on television now, and every week you can find a film somewhere with gay characters," he says. "Thats very important, because so many peoples attitudes are formed by what they see in popular culture."
"Like with Ellen Degeneres and Ann Heche?" says the Lizard. "Seems like the best thing theyve had a chance to do since they came out was that cameo on Family Guy. Thats not exactly progress."
"But at least theyre out there," I say. "Thats gotta count for something."
"Freak girl, in one way or another, were all out there, if you know what I mean."
"Are you telling me that youre gay?" I ask, feeling honored and thrilled to be confided in.
"Not exactly. Remember, Im a lizard. Its hard enough to get dates in the first place. We cant even tell what gender we are until were up close. I once knew an iguana named Josephine who only found out one day when she went to the vet that she was really a Joseph."
"That would make her transgendered, right?" I ask.
"Whatever, whatever," says the Lizard. "All I can say is, its definitely a good time for anyone who wants to come out to do so. The only ones having any fun in the closet anymore are those Barbies."