Happy National Coming Out Day.
National Coming Out Day was first celebrated on October 11, 1988, exactly one year after the historic March On Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. Today we mark the 24th National Coming Out Day, and continue to celebrate it as a day when lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies proudly share who they are and encourage those who aren’t out of the closet to join them in an effort to ignite and increase discussions of and about the LGBT community.
Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 — and who was assassinated less than a year later — is a symbol of sacrifice and inspiration for generations of LGBTQs when National Coming Out Day is commemorated each October 11.
His messages on the importance of coming out of the closet resonate today because they are still relevant. Too many closets are still padlocked shut out of fear, ignorance and the very real threat of violence, being tossed out of your parent’s house, or losing your job and lack of public accommodation if you’re gender non-conforming in many states around the country. If everyone who is LGBT came out of the closet, discrimination would have ended long ago.
Some words of wisdom today…
“We must destroy the myths once and for all. We must continue to speak out and most importantly, every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family, you must tell your relatives, you must tell your friends — if they indeed are your friends — you must tell your neighbors, you must tell the people you work with, you must tell the people in the stores you shop in, and once they realize that we are indeed their children and that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and for all. And once you do you will feel so much better.”
“Somewhere in Des Moines or San Antonio there is a young gay person who all the sudden realizes that he or she is gay; knows that if their parents find out they will be tossed out of the house, their classmates will taunt the child, and the Anita Bryant’s and John Briggs’ are doing their part on TV. And that child has several options: staying in the closet, and suicide. And then one day that child might open the paper that says “Homosexual elected in San Francisco” and there are two new options: the option is to go to California, or stay in San Antonio and fight. Two days after I was elected I got a phone call and the voice was quite young. It was from Altoona, Pennsylvania. And the person said “Thanks”. And you’ve got to elect gay people, so that thousand upon thousands like that child know that there is hope for a better world; there is hope for a better tomorrow. Without hope, not only gays, but those who are blacks, the Asians, the disabled, the seniors, the us’s: without hope the us’s give up. I know that you can’t live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you, and you, and you, and you have got to give them hope.”
That is why the religious right wants people in the closet — it’s their last means of control over the evolving culture that is slipping from their fingers.
For a perspective on the meaning of this day through the eyes of a person of color, read Michael J. Brewer “Coming Out in Two Acts: One Man’s Story on Family, Love and Living Authentically” at the National Black Justice Coalition.
* My coming out story