Coming out: A domino game

Polls show that the biggest supporters of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights are those who know LGBT people. So do your part on this National Coming Out Day.

BY Advocate.com Editors

October 10 2005 12:00 AM ET

Having flown on
more than 60 planes in the last six months, I’ve had
my share of conversations with strangers.
You’ve been there too. Even if you have an
aversion to flying, you’ve faced this situation in
the doctor’s office or on a train.

You’re
sitting next to a woman who reminds you of your grandmother,
and you’re chatting about the best Italian
restaurants in Boston. She says you’re cute,
seeming to restrain herself from pinching your cheek, and
remarks about your “lucky wife.” All of a
sudden you go from friendly chitchat to a serious
personal conversation.

That is, if you
decide to be honest. Too often we aren’t. We tell
half-truths, “Oh, I’m not married.”
We’re human. We worry about being liked. We
don’t want the grandmotherly conversation to take a
turn to a lecture. But here’s why we should
risk it.

Talking about our
lives lays the foundation for equality.

Imagine that
woman next to you on the plane to Boston. In the fall of
2008, Massachusetts voters could be asked whether they want
to put marriage discrimination in the state
constitution. She’s one of those voters. She
doesn’t know anybody gay (or know that she knows
anybody gay). Sure, she’s seen gay people on
TV, and she thinks her neighbor’s son is gay.
But she’s never had a conversation about gay issues
with anybody gay, much less someone with whom
she’s already struck up a friendly
conversation.

You’re
starting on good ground. And even if you never see the
payoff down the road, it will happen. Polls show that
the biggest supporters of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgender rights are those who know LGBT people.

Coming out
isn’t just for LGBT people either. Take one of our
staff members, Jay. He’s transgender and out to
his family. Still, Jay hasn’t seen his
great-aunt in years and hasn’t had the chance to talk
to her yet. But his grandmother talks to her. The
other day, Jay’s mom called. His great-aunt had
sent her an article about a transgender woman in
Houston whom the Human Rights Campaign helped. The article
included a note from the great-aunt about her support
for Jay and for the great work the organization is
doing.

Sure, it made him
feel great, but it also proves an important point:
Coming out has a domino effect that doesn’t stop with
straight people.

Coming out can go
all the way from the chat between airplane passengers
to the inside of the voting booth on Election Day. On this
National Coming Out Day, make a commitment to yourself
to talk about it, every day. And before the year is
out, talk about it to one friend, one family member,
one coworker, and one neighbor on the plane before National
Coming Out Day 2006. Just think of where the last domino
could fall.

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