On October 11th, LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) activists, and our allies celebrate National Coming Out Day.
National Coming Out Day is a proactive way for LGBT people and our allies to celebrate the richness and strength of the LGBT community. We do this by holding events throughout the country, speaking about the coming out process, and reminding our friends, neighbors and colleagues, that there are LGBT people in every hamlet, village, town and state in this great nation.
When I decided to write this post, I did some research on how the day evolved. The Human Rights Campaign retells the genesis of National Coming Out Day:
“On Oct. 11, 1987, half a million people participated in the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. It was the second such demonstration in our nation’s capital and resulted in the founding of a number of LGBT organizations, including the National Latino/a Gay & Lesbian Organization (LLEGÓ) and AT&T’s LGBT employee group, LEAGUE.
The momentum continued four months after this extraordinary march as more than 100 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists from around the country gathered in Manassas, VA about 25 miles outside Washington, D.C. Recognizing that the LGBT community often reacted defensively to anti-gay actions, they came up with the idea of a national day to celebrate coming out and chose the anniversary of that second march on Washington to mark it.” (http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/the-history-of-coming-out)
Some may ask why I celebrate this day. I celebrate National Coming Out Day because I know there are people who are still forced into silence. I also know that change is possible. I use this day as an opportunity to raise awareness and speak to an often silent injustice. And I hope that there will be a tipping point that will make it possible to live in a country where the concepts of “the closet” and “coming out” are as antiquated as rotary phones.
There is progress; more and more visible people (recent examples include Anderson Cooper and country singer Chely Wright), are able to come out. Yet with all our progress, there are countless people who cannot come out. These include: young people who are forced into silence in our schools because they will be beat-up, harassed and harmed, adults who fear losing their careers, people who are scared their religious institutions will abandon them and seniors who are unsure if their nursing home will treat them with dignity and respect.
These are but a few reasons why people do not feel safe to come out. Allies, and those who are out, must work diligently to break down the closet doors once and for all.
Fittingly, this year’s National Coming Out Day theme is “Come Out. Vote”. By coming out to vote, we can start to change policies that keep our friends and family in the closet.
While a vast majority of those reading this post are probably not LGBT, fortunately most, if not all of us, know someone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. When we look at candidates for office, from the President of the United States to a school board member, ask where they stand on LGBT issues. Think of the people you care about who are LGBT when you bubble in your vote.
The personal is political and in this case, these elections are personal. Are you going to support candidates that look to strip away the rights of the LGBT community or will you support those that look to expand and project rights? Read the platforms of the major political parties, look at voting histories and most importantly vote with your heart and morals.
I challenge all of us, allies and members of the LGBT community, to come out in support of full equality and justice for all.
Don’t sit on the side-lines----“Come out. Vote”.