Thursday, October 11, 2012

Happy National Coming Out Day!

Today is National Coming Out Day, an annual celebration of ones self-identifaction as a member of the LGBTQI community by "coming out" of the proverbial closet. Founded in 1988 to promote progress through visibility, we as a community have come a very long way in our quest towards equality. I've heard a lot of people exclaim that it seems ridiculous to have a specific day to celebrate being out, open, and proud of our sexual orientation, that our lives should be a testament to this very fact. I agree. Choosing to live openly as queer individuals encourages others to do the same and shows them that they are not alone and have a family and community that accepts and loves them for who they are.

Continuing upon an earlier discussion, it really is important to take note of and understand from where we come in order to move positively forward in the future. October's LGBT History Month is celebrated annually to educate the general public on the significant contributions members of the LGBTQ community, both past and present, have made in the world. We have to remember that the Gay Rights Movement didn't happen too long ago. It wasn't until the Stonewall Riots of 1969 that we finally spoke out against the injustice we faced and came together as a community. And it wasn't until the fall of 2009 that the Matthew Shepard Act was passed, criminalizing hate crimes against based on the victim's gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Intolerance, bigotry, misinformation, fear, and inequality remain ever present in our world today. We have the amazing privilege and opportunity to do something about it. Whether it's by taking an active social and political stance against homophobia and inequality, or by simply living as an open member of our community, you are making your voice heard. I've met so many amazing people, both veterans of the movement and those who are just beginning to make their mark, who inspire me to aid in the molding of a better, more accepting world for us and the generations to come.

I was fortunate enough growing up that I rarely faced discrimination based on my race, gender, or perceived sexual orientation. It pains and disgusts me to hear stories from friends and acquaintances that their lives growing up, that their experience with coming out to their friends and family, wasn't as easy as mine. Upon telling my mother that I'm a young, gay man at the age of fifteen she hugged me tight and blurted out, "Oh! Thank God, I thought you were going to give me some bad news! I've always known, and I still love you."

That's why we celebrate Gay Pride every year in as many cities as we can. Many people often complain that it has transformed into an over-sexualization of our community, that it misrepresents us, and shows us in a deviant light. I highly disagree with this on many levels. The reason the gay flag is a rainbow is because it represents different parts of a whole. If anything, I think it should just be the universal flag for humanity. We have dikes on bikes riding down the road, the bears showing off their fur and beaming smiles, twinks scantily-clad and dancing around, families celebrating their unity, and an array of other sub-divisions of the community because we are a multifaceted group; just as we are multifaceted individuals.

Coming out is a process and I can't wait for the day when it becomes a non-factor, so deeply ingrained in our society that one need not feel the need to reveal this simple fact about his or herself. Y'all are right, it shouldn't matter and it doesn't. But until that day comes when a bully goes after a someone for being gay, or Asian, or disabled, or queer, or different, then we still have a lot of work to do.

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