Oct. 11 is National Coming Out Day 10/11/13

Coming-Out-300x214 October 11 is the 25th National Coming Out Day in the United States.  The first Coming Out Day, held in 1988, was to celebrate the 1987 March on Washington For Lesbian and Gay Rights, where over 500,000 people gathered to advocate for LGBT rights in the nation’s capitol.

This year’s celebration is themed “Coming Out Still Matters“.   The great strides made in the past decade can be directly attributed to members of the LGBT community coming out to family, friends, and co-workers.  Coming out dispels, in a direct and forceful manner, the misconceptions many have of gay people.  When a friend or loved one comes out, it’s difficult for most people to maintain a negative mental image of the LGBT community.  When they know they know a gay person, they have to admit to the common humanity they share.  It’s difficult to hold a bad image of “the gay” when someone you love reveals they are gay.

National Coming Out Day provides a vehicle for people to discuss the issues of basic human rights with friends and family.  It gives members of the LGBT community a platform to let those closest to them know how much they trust and respect them, when they are willing to reveal something so deeply personal, risking the possibility of rejection.

A growing number of people are “out” from an increasingly earlier age, and each time one does, it makes it easier for those still in the closet.  My own coming out process was greatly influenced by the bravery of others, in Visalia as well as on the national stage.  I came out, to myself and others, relatively late in my adulthood (late 30’s into my early 40’s).  That was largely due to a lack of positive gay role models.  My image of what it meant to be gay was heavily influenced by growing up in Visalia, and experiencing nothing but hostility towards gays.  Once I began to see positive images of gay men, especially on the Internet, things began to change for me.  Others who came out before me gave me the ability to come out myself.

Today’s youth are coming out at earlier ages than ever before, and it’s changing their families and communities.  Where in the past it was often college age or later when most people came out, we’re seeing high school and middle school students recognizing they are LGBT, and coming out to family and friends.  The openness of people before them, along with their own bravery, has led them to feel comfortable with being out.

As this year’s theme expresses, it’s still important to come out.  If you’re in the closet, your life is limited by the door you’re hiding behind.  You, as most of us have, will find your life much more rewarding and full when you are able to be honest with yourself and those around you.  Living an authentic existence frees you to be, to coin a phrase, all you can be.  Coming out will add to the public understanding that the LGBT community is truly part of every aspect of our community, nation, and world.

Coming out is not without risk.  When I came, out a friend of almost 20 years disowned me.  The person I thought would have the most difficulty, a man who is now a Christian minister and has been a friend of mine since 6th grade, had no problem with remaining close.  My immediate family has been completely accepting, and I’ve not heard anything negative from extended family.  My associates at work are accepting and affirming, regardless of their personal feelings on the subject (generally related to their religious beliefs).  The only place I have experienced any hostility to being gay has been online, in response to my blogs and comments in online forums.  (That, and some nasty looks at three Porterville City Council meetings this summer!)

With all the risks of coming out, the benefits greatly outweigh the possible negatives.  Young people struggling with issues of coming out have many resources to help them, like the Trevor Project, and families and friends can check out PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).

If you’re LGBT, and still in the closet, consider stepping out, or at least beginning the process, on October 11.  It could be the first day of the rest of your fabulous life.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s