Today is National Coming Out Day. Why is that important? Because when people come out--as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, asexual, etc.--they're telling the world that they're not ashamed of their sexuality, themselves or their lives. That they're proud to be who they are. The more people come out, the more obvious it will become that LGBTQ folks are just the same as everyone else, that being LGBTQ is only a part of our identity. We have families and pets and jobs and houses/apartments and coffee tables. And, chances are, people who know LGBTQ people are more likely to stand up for LGBTQ issues (except if you're Dick Cheney or Sarah Palin).
But you don't necessarily have to be gay to revel in the spirit of coming out day. Today, even if you're straight, come out as something as a sign of solidarity with the LGBTQ community (H/T to the Pride group at my graduate institution, who did this last year). Are you a feminist? Come out as a feminist. Are you a Buddhist? Tell the world. Each of us has many identity positions we occupy day after day, sometimes without even realizing that we take certain rights and privileges for granted. So, whether you're LGBTQ or not, today is a day to own your identity and to think about how your life is shaped daily by all the little pieces that make up who you are.
I'll start. I'm a lesbian, biracial, agnostic, a democrat and a feminist. Everyone I'm close to knows that I'm gay, from my parents--who were and are terrific about it--and relatives (even though it took me quite a while to tell them) to my friends. Still, I used to be very wary of coming out to people I only knew casually, to the extent that I attended the same karate dojo for five years (and worked there for one of those years), and only came out to two people there. But this summer I moved and made a decision; I wasn't going to hedge anymore. If someone asked me why I moved, I would tell them (to be with my partner) and if they didn't like it, tough. Four or five times now I've encountered the same question from people I just met, "Oh, so why did you come all the way out here?" and I've answered, "To be with my partner." And when they ask what my partner does, I always start the sentence with "she." It seems like a small step, but it's a huge deal to me, and every time so far the person I'm speaking with has responded positively and without hesitation. And that's how I realized that all these years I've been isolating myself. No, not everyone is going to be okay with the fact that I'm a lesbian, but I'll never know if I don't tell them and give them a chance. That's what Coming Out Day is about to me--not worrying what people will think of me and being proud of who I am and whom I love.
What about you all? Come out, come out! And, remember, you don't have to be LGBTQ to participate. Share your stories in the comments.
Update: Check out Hahn at Home's great coming out post over at Lesbiatopia and Queers United's Coming Out Day open forum. Also, a wonderful coming-out-as-an-ally post from Renee at Womanist Musings and Britni explains over at her blog why it can still be so hard to come out even when you're open about everything else.
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