Today is National Coming Out Day. A day for all LGBT people to collectively summon their courage and resolve to be more open about who they are. So here we go– this is me being a little more open. I have this distinct memory of being about twelve years old and watching a 20/20 or Dateline or something about families with gay parents. I can still see the teenage daughter of a lesbian couple as she looked down the lens of the camera and said the words “I’m a dyke” and I can still hear the voice in my head that shouted “That is YOU!” Scared the hell out of me, so I never spoke of it to anyone. But it was always there.
I didn’t arouse suspicion while I was growing up. I wore skirts and high heels, had long hair, danced ballet, was terrible at every sport invented. I was never a big tom-boy. I didn’t hang with the guys. I had decent fashion sense, even if I didn’t enjoy shopping the way my friends all did. I wore fitted blouses and jewelry. I didn’t set any alarms off in people’s heads. But the alarms were in my head. I didn’t cut my hair short because I had to wear it in a bun for ballet. I wore heels because I’m 4’10” tall. I didn’t play sports because I suck at them, but maybe that’s because my legs are shorter than everyone else’s. I really wanted to wear combat boots, cuffs and black lipstick, but I was shy and afraid of being bullied. I’ll never know if I did the things I did because I wanted to or because I felt I had to. The image presented to me was very specific and I was supposed to fill it.
Coming Out is one of the hardest things a person can ever go through. It causes a person to doubt everything about themselves and their lives. I can’t tell you enough how important it is to be loving and supportive through this process with a person who is coming out. Even if you don’t agree, even if you don’t understand. Love and support. That’s what
gay people everyone needs.
A few things you should know about being Queer…
- Gay people like me can be fired from my job simply for being gay in 29 states.
- Gay people like me can be denied housing simply for being gay in 30 states.
- Gay people like me can enter into a loving, legally and equally recognized relationship in only 6 states and DC though none of them enjoy federal benefits or recognition.
- Gay people like me can not jointly adopt a child in 34 states if they find that special someone and want to start a family.
- Gay kids in school are not protected from anti-gay bullying and harassment in 33 states.
- It is even worse in each of these categories for transgender men and women.
- Gay youth are more at risk than ever to harm themselves or take their own lives.
- Less than 1% of characters in Young Adult Literature are LGBTQ.
- Even among LGBT books, there is still a gross misrepresentation of gender: In the little LGBT inclusive literature out there 50% of LGBT YA books are about boys, with only 25% about girls, and only 4% about transgender charachters. Clearly even in the tiny 1%, the G is far better represented than the L, B or T
We need to be sending the message not only that It Gets Better, but that no matter how alone you feel, you are not because we are everywhere. I’m from Dubuque, IA and I’m lesbian. No matter how hard it is there are people who Give a Damn and if we all work together we can achieve change. (To-Do list: read for Conceptual Foundations of Library Science, achieve legal equality, buy cat litter, — yup I’m all set)
Want to make a difference? The Human Rights Campaign is a good place to start. You can also get involved with PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays… and Bisexuals, and Transgender and Questioning people)
Tell your friend or family member that you love them, that you support equality. Or however you choose to celebrate it:
HAPPY NATIONAL COMING OUT DAY!