Happy National Coming Out Day!
Today is the day that the LGBTQ community has designated as a day to be sure to tell someone else that you are not heterosexual. Why? Because research shows that people who know an LGBTQ person are much less likely to be homophobic and are much more likely to become open-minded about LGBTQ issues such as gay marriage, hate crime law and protection of LGBTQ youth in schools.
This is also a day, I’ve noticed that straight allies come out as allies. As LGBTQ youth come out younger and younger, it is all the more important that there are strong allies to youth available to advocate for them, accept them and just plain understand them. It matters not if the ally is straight or not. It simply matters that there are many out there who are open about their willingness to stand up — sometimes at their own personal risk — for a young person.
I can attest that some of the strongest allies to the LGBTQ community that I know of are friends and family of LGBTQ people: The mom of a young gay man who started a PFLAG chapter, the daughter of an out gay man, a sister who puts on programming for PFLAG, a niece of a transgender man who goes out of her way to speak up for transpeople, and a mom and dad who are now regulars at the Dignity USA conferences. These people carry their ally-ship beyond their families. These people are teachers, therapists, writers, doctors and retirees who come to the side of LGBTQ people on important issues in large and small ways. From posting on Facebook to writing a column in a newspaper to changing an intake form to incorporate non-straight identities, these are strong people who have done their own work to not only “accept” that there loved one is LGBTQ but have gone out of their way to make the world safer for everyone.
So, to everyone who comes out today, to everyone who has been come out to, to allies who have helped make it possible, thank you. It is through being proudly non-heterosexual that we show the world that there is truly nothing to fear.
Some wonderful articles on coming out have run recently on coming out including the New York Times Magazine piece on coming out in middle school. The article is as much about the adults around them — parents, school counselors, teachers and LGBTQ youth advocates as it is about the students themselves. Many of these allies were not prepared for youth to be coming out as early as 11. Many struggled to overcome their own biases or still are. The piece highlights the power of adults in the world of these youth. The strict, anti-gay father or the principal who has failed to crack down on anti-gay bullying can cause significant hardship for these youth and their families. Advocates in any relationship to young people — parents, a school nurse, a para at school or an aunt can be a life preserver for these youth. Those who have someone to advocate for them are stronger, healthier, and more resilient.
You never know what 10 or 11-year-old is out there looking for someone who might “get it.” Maybe you won’t even speak with them but just the sight of your rainbow sticker, HRC button, your PFLAG Mom hat, “Safe Space” Sign, or even you holding hand with a partner might alleviate a young person’s loneliness and depression. So, come out as LGBTQ or an ally. Without realizing, your making the world that much safer.
For more information, see HRC’s tools for “Conversations from the Heart” — how to start a conversation on National Coming Out Day for LGBTQ people and supporters.
Or, watch their video “Conversations from the Heart”