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Why National Coming Out Day Matters

Why National Coming Out Day Matters

Editor's letter from the latest issues of print edition. 

You probably know that National Coming Out Day is October 11. I’ve written so many times about coming out in different ways: as a les-bi-queer girl; as the wife of a transgender man; as someone with an invisible disability; as a white-passing woman of color.

What I’ve found in my years of journalism and activism is that coming out feels freeing for most people when it’s done on their own time. I have no qualms about outing folks who are doing real harm to our community, but for everyone else, coming out should be your own impetus. I feel for folks like Ed Smart (pg. 11) who came out in a Facebook message to family and friends without realizing how much media would amplify and run with it.

Spend any time around LGBTQ folks and people living with HIV or a disability and you see how much pressure, stress, and shame accompanies being closeted about who you are and what you’re experiencing. When you are able to live in your truth, it can be a jolt of culture shock or a wonderful welcoming or both (Olympian Adam Rippon talks about this in our special insert this issue).

For some, this manifests into repression, angst, and — perhaps if you’re in Congress — it can lead to self-hating antigay government policies that affect us all. That’s what both Chelsea Handler and Patti LuPone have alleged is happening with Lindsey Graham. (For the record, Graham has denied he is gay.)

But the more of us that come out about ourselves and live in whatever level of transparency we’re comfortable with, the more frequently young people who are coming out as queer or trans or HIV-positive will be told “That’s great,” “Thanks for sharing,” or “So what?” And, most importantly, “I love you.” (Not “I love you, but…”)

Instead, far too many newly out LGBTQ folks hear “Get out of my house,” “How could you do this to your family?” or “You’re going to hell,” all of which are terrible things to hear. Even though family often comes around with years of patience, those words of hate stay with you like any other trauma.

But what if it’s your kid who is coming out and you yourself are gay? It can still be tough, many parents have told me. Historically, the largest percentage of LGBTQ parents hope their kids are straight and cisgender so their lives are easier than ours were. But it’s also because the religious right’s biggest argument against us was that we don’t deserve to be parents because our kids will turn out to be queer too. (Even though most of our parents were straight and study after study finds no great difference in outcomes for the children of gays and lesbians compared with children of straight parents. Unfortunately, trans parents are rarely studied, and bisexual parents are usually defined by researchers as gay or straight based on their partner’s gender.)

So it was lovely to see Karamo Brown, famous for his role on Netflix’s Queer Eye, step up and support his newly out pansexual son, Jason, but also to acknowledge his own early struggles with hearing the news. Being a paragon of transparency and self-empowerment, as Karamo is, he was hurt Jason hadn’t felt comfortable in sharing his truth previously. (Karamo argues that Jason didn’t so much “come out” as finally let his father in.) One look at these two, a Black gay father and his 20-something son, hamming it up on set proves that they’ve worked through any hard feelings.

I encourage anyone reading this now to consider letting in your friends, family, coworkers, social media followers, and yes, if you’re lucky enough to be in Congress, even your constituents, so that the next generation has an even easier time. Perhaps one day there will be no coming out, just being out — about all of our truths.

 

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