October 11 is National Coming Out Day. On one hand, it is pretty awesome that there is such a sense of community engagement that there is a day of national awareness. On the other hand, it is really sad that there has to be a national day of awareness in the first place.
The first National Coming Out Day was in 1988, when I (and probably the majority of people who read this blog) was still young enough that I wasn’t really sure about the difference between boys and girls yet, other than if I hit my older brother it was OK, but if he returned the favor he got into trouble. Not that I ever used that to my advantage …
There are so many reasons for members of the LGBTQ community not to come out:
- LGBTQ people are at a higher risk of sexual violence
- In 29 states you can be fired if your boss thinks you are lesbian or gay. Thirty-two states allow for firing based on gender identity. (Arizona is in both categories.)
- Same-sex marriage is still illegal in more than half the country, including Arizona
The list goes on and on, punctuated by violence and discrimination, hate and fear.
But somewhere between 1.6 and 10 percent of people identify as LGBTQ, and according to the Human Rights Campaign, one out of every two Americans has someone close to them who is lesbian or gay. Planned Parenthood says one out of four families has a member who is LGBTQ. To put those numbers in perspective, in Tucson, that means, statistically, between 16,000 and 90,000 people identify as LGBTQ.
The process of coming out is different for everyone, and different every time. It is also something that, on average, LGBTQ people are doing at a younger age than previous generations. And, thanks to the Internet, there are some amazing resources to help.
In honor of National Coming Out Day 2014, I have something to say: I am gay.
That is a terrifying thing to say, no matter how many times I say it. Continue reading