To my straight and cisgender friends,
Today is National Coming Out Day. Started 29 years ago, this day celebrates the coming out process. For an LGBT individual, coming out is an important part of accepting one’s own identity, and it allows for an individual to publicly embrace that identity. Furthermore, coming out is an integral aspect of LGBT culture, and, by going through this process, we recognize the sacrifices made to gain the rights we have today.
However, what many fail to realize is that coming out is by no means an isolated event. As we strive to retain a sense of self within a heteronormative society, LGBT individuals must “come out” in every moment of our lives in order to throw off the chains of oppression. Thus, it has become apparent that, as an out gay man, I must submit to you, the straight and cisgender community, a list of reasons why I, among others, continue to come out on a daily basis.
- I come out because, if I didn’t, people would assume that I was straight without even asking me.
- I come out because people freely use the terms “gay” or “queer” to describe something they don’t like.
- I come out because people feel they can throw around the words “faggot” and “dyke” without any consequence.
- I come out because “gay marriage” is used instead of simply “marriage” as if a marriage between two people of the same-sex is a spectacle to be seen at the zoo.
- I come out because being gay is equated with being a woman or feminine, as if being homosexual suddenly takes away one’s manhood.
- I come out because being homosexual immediately makes me have an interest in every straight guy under the sun when, in reality, I could not care less.
- I come out because I am commodified as the “gay best friend” when I should be able to be someone’s friend regardless of sexuality.
- I come out because my homosexuality is called an experimental phase that I will grow out of.
- I come out because the history of my community is erased from textbooks and class, glossed over because my country is ashamed of how it has treated my people and because it refuses to recognize our role in history.
- I come out because no popular movies accurately portray me or give important plot lines to LGBT characters.
- I come out because my country continues to elect individuals who would be pleased to see me being tortured in order to “cure me.”
- I come out because I live in a world where I can be given the death penalty simply for being gay.
- I come out because I can be fired in the majority of the states within my country on the basis of my sexuality.
- I come out because people can deny me services on the basis of religious beliefs, all the while preaching the hypocritical message of “love the sinner, hate the sin.”
- I come out because over half a million LGBT youths attempt to kill themselves every year.
- I come out because LGBT individuals make up over 40 percent of the homeless youth population.
- I come out because being gay is equated with being a pedophile or other form of sexual predator.
- I come out because HIV and AIDS are still stigmatized as a gay man’s disease, which, in turn, also prevents me from donating blood.
For all these reasons and more, I continue to come out every day. Ever since the first time that I came out, I have had the responsibility to secure the complete and total equality of the LGBT community, protecting those who have come out as well and those who are not yet ready to do so themselves. Those, I desire not to shatter the doors behind which these individuals wait for the right time to come out, but I rather wish to confront those who contribute—whether knowingly or out of ignorance—to them needing those doors to hide behind in the first place.
My straight and cisgender friends, it is no longer possible for you to remain ignorant and on the sidelines in the fight for LGBT equality. You can no longer say that the issues of the LGBT community do not affect you, as we have made ourselves and our struggle known to you repeatedly. You must choose whether you too will come out in the fight for LGBT equality or if you will remain inactive, thereby contributing to the problem. We, the people of the LGBT community, deserve to live in a world where we will not be considered an aberration, where coming out will no longer be necessary for any other purpose as a cultural practice to recognize the journey we have taken as a people. Homophobia and transphobia are no longer only direct discrimination against the LGBT community; they are also the indirect choice of choosing to not fight in the battle for equality. Remaining ignorant and inactive is homophobia/transphobia, as it sends the undeniable message that one does not care about our struggle.
With this message having been conveyed, I would be remiss to not include ways in which one could contribute to the movement for LGBT equality. Following is a list of a few actions an ally to the LGBT community can take.
- Visit the following websites, all of which contain resources on being an ally: Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN).
- Elect public officials with pro-LGBT policies. Write and petition these officials to pass pro-LGBT legislation and demonstrate public support for the LGBT community.
- Volunteer your time to organizations who provide aid to the LGBT population.
- Advocate for LGBT groups within your local schools, giving LGBT students a way to feel safe in their educational environment.
- Don’t allow those around you to casually use gay slurs. Challenge them when they do so and explain to them why these words are so harmful to those within the LGBT community.
- Help to amplify the voices of LGBT authors. Be liberal in your sharing of LGBT literature and media; and demand that LGBT issues be taught in schools.
- Embrace those who have come out as well as those who are not yet ready to do so.
An Out and Proud Gay Man