Every October 11, thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and allies celebrate National Coming Out Day. Coming out refers to the process of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people sharing their sexual orientation and/or gender identity with others. Why is this important? The idea is that it is harder to remain bigoted and ignorant when you realize that LGBT folks really are everywhere: they are your family, friends, neighbors, respected professionals, politicians and celebrities. And for those who are queer, coming out gives provides access to more support and decreases the shame inherent in keeping such a huge part of yourself a secret.
This day feels even more important than usual this year in the wake of all the recent examples of the deadly consequences of homophobia. In September nine youth committed suicide related to anti-gay bullying. Many have responded to these tragedies already by coming out via the It Gets Better Project: about their sexual orientation, experiences with bullying and coping with suicidal feelings.
Living your life as an out gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer person can serve as an example to others that such a life is possible. As a straight ally, you can also come out. You can speak positively about the various LGBT people in your life or simply speak up about your support of equality and civil rights for all.
What civil rights are LGBT people in America still lacking?
- The right to work our jobs and go to school free of harassment and discrimination.
- The right to safety in our daily lives, and protection from hate crimes.
- The right to equitable healthcare, and the right to donate blood.
- The right to equitable immigration policies.
- The right to marry.
- The right to serve in the military openly. (Equality Across America)
Homophobia and transphobia (which are at the root of this lack of affording LGBT people equal rights) adversely effect mental health. This has never been more painfully obvious. We can do something about it. We all can and deserve to live lives of integrity and authenticity. We can speak up and out for those who are not yet able to do so.
For more information, you can check out the Human Rights Campaign’s coming out guides.