My local newspaper, the Visalia Times Delta, hosts two (so far) at-large Community Bloggers, along with staff blogs on it’s site. I was honored (and, to be honest, surprised) to have been asked to be one of those bloggers. The following is a repost of an article I wrote last night for my Times Delta blog, Alternating Currents.
October 11 is National Coming Out Day. It’s roots reach back to 1987, and a march for lesbian and gay rights in Washington, D.C. In the years since, it’s grown to a national and international day of support for closeted lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. NCOD allows people to use the day as an opportunity to open discussions about the subject with those closest to them.
Whether a teenager just discovering their orientation, or an adult who has decided to stop living in the closet, NCOD affords a wide arrange of options for people to have that discussion with family, friends, and associates.
One of the most prevalent statements from those who are out is how they feel a burden has been lifted from their shoulders. Once they have quit the closet, they are free to become the person they truly are, able to fully experience what life has to offer. It’s difficult to be a genuine person when you’re hiding something so basic, fearful that others will discover your secret. It takes a lot of energy and concentration to keep that door closed. Once you step out, all that can be focused on living an authentic life, whatever that might be for you.
California law prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations, based on sexual orientation. You can’t be fired, evicted, or refused access for being LGBT, and anyone who violates that law can be held liable. Military service is no longer barred to those who are open about their orientation. Marriage is available in several states, and it appears likely to be so in California again within the year. Television and movies are increasingly presenting LGBT characters in portrayals that are more honest and positive than ever before. Only in fundamentalist religions do we still see an ongoing attempt to denigrate and marginalize gay people. Society, or at least much of it, is rapidly recognizing the truth: lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are a vibrant part of their communities and families, and discrimination is becoming more a thing of history than one of current experience.
There are still episodes of bigotry, hatred, and intolerance, however. Some families still haven’t come to terms with the truth of their loved ones, or have made it clear that anyone who comes out risks rejection and expulsion. Suicide in the LGBT community, especially among teens, is still a difficult problem. The “It Gets Better Project“, and the “Trevor Project” both work to reduce those issues. Coming out is not always an easy choice, and some experience incredible hardship. If you think coming out might be received with physical danger, or being thrown out of your home, it might be better to wait until your personal safety can be assured. If those dangers are not something you think would be a result of coming out, then the risk is worth it in almost every instance. Check out the videos in the “It Gets Better” project, from the originators, Dan Savage and his husband, to celebrities, everyday people, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, and President Barack Obama. Many times, the people whose reactions you fear the most may just be waiting for you to take the first step.
Take stock of your situation, decide what the best course of action for you would be, and then take the plunge. Whether you tell only one or two people at first, or use the day to make a widespread announcement to your compatriots and family, October 11 is a place to start to build that dialogue, and let those who love you stand with you.
You may be surprised how many are just waiting on you.