For 30 years, this day has been a celebration of the bravery and power of LGBTQ people who choose to live openly as their whole, true selves. October 11, 2018 marks the 30th anniversary of National Coming Out Day.
But this day is more than a celebration. It’s a recognition that our unapologetic existence is the best weapon against forces of intolerance that seek to erase us from public life. As more people learn that they have friends and family who are LGBTQ, public opinion moves inexorably in our favor. This familiarity is more valuable than any campaign, law or policy. Visibility and participation in our community is the leading driver of social change for LGBTQ people.
But coming out can be hard. And it can come at a cost.
For transgender people, we are more likely to experience joblessness, homelessness, harassment and discrimination in public places. Family rejection, particularly for transgender youth, is a pressing reality. By some housing provider estimates, LGBTQ youth make up nearly 40% of all homeless youth. And the primary driver of homelessness in LGBTQ youth is family rejection.
I paid, and am still paying, a steep price for living my truth. But every moment out of the darkness of that closet, is worth it. I’ve been rewarded with renewed purpose, a loving community of transgender people, and the joy of being able to be wholly myself everywhere I go. I came out of the closet relatively late in life, at the age of 39. I stayed so long because I couldn’t see a future in which I could be myself and still survive. When I finally came out, I lost friends and family members. I faced lack of employment - An inability to find housing - Fear - Harassment - Isolation.
I bet on myself, and that bet has paid off. And I’ll keep betting on myself as I keep fighting for the equality and dignity of all people.
Coming out of the closet isn’t safe for everyone. Nobody should allow the hubbub around this day to make them feel like they are less important. We don’t owe our deepest hearts to anyone. I want every LGBTQ person to be safe in whatever way that looks.
Those who choose to open their closet door deserve support in this act of power and vulnerability. They deserve to be welcomed by their families, friends, neighborhoods, communities, employers and the whole wide world - fully, with open arms and no reservations - to be seen as the whole persons that they are.
On National Coming Out Day, take a moment to let the community know that you are a safe person in which to confide. Post a message of support to your social media account. Tell your own story of coming out. Let our friends who aren’t yet in a place to make that leap know that they have value.
Let’s get to work building a world where nobody needs a closet for anything other than clothes.