National Coming Out Day still matters

national_coming_out_dayOn Sunday, October 11, we celebrate the pride of coming out as a member of the LGBT+ community.

All U.S. citizens, including same-sex couples, now have the freedom to marry.  There are more LGBT+ characters on network TV than you might think.  With public figures, celebrities and athletes living out and proud, youth have more visible role models than ever. And 90% of Americans now personally know someone who is gay, lesbian or bisexual.

We’ve come so far, so fast, with LGBT+ visibility and awareness.  Some might argue that coming out is no longer the dramatic life event that it was for previous generations. Many might say that we are moving towards a world of more fluid sexuality, without the social consequences and stigmas of the past.  Others may argue that people don’t need to come out because “nobody cares if you’re LGBT” and that “nobody has a problem with it anymore.”

But is that really true?

We firmly believe that coming out, as an action of personal pride, self-acceptance and solidarity, still matters.

It takes courage, confidence and resilience to come out of the closet.  Half of teenagers who come out receive a negative reaction.  One of four are asked to leave their home.  Family rejection increases the risk of youth suicide by 800%  Adults who come out later in life can face skepticism, doubt, and even hate from spouses, children, friends and family.

Yes, there are real risks.   But the health and wellness risks of staying in the closet are even greater:

  • Questioning youth with self-acceptance issues are three times more likely, to attempt suicide as their self-accepting LGBT+ peers.
  • Closeted adults are twice to three times as likely to develop chronic substance abuse problems.
  • Closeted individuals have higher risks of anxiety and depression, as well as increased risk of health conditions due to chronic stress.
  • By staying closeted, people deny their true identities and their opportunities for a healthy, happy and authentic life.

And for all our victories, the LGBT+ community still has a long way to go:

  • Two-thirds of LGBT+ Americans report discrimination in their personal lives.
  • You can still be legally fired in 31 states simply for self-identifying as an LGBT+ employee.
  • LGBT+ Americans can legally be denied service in restaurants, banks, shops and hotels.
  • You can be legally denied access to federally funded public services simply for being LGBT+.
  • There are no protections against jury discrimination for LGBT+ Americans facing trial.
  • Having lost the national marriage equality fight, legislators have turned to more subtle ways of discriminating against the LGBT+ community, including the violation of transgender civil rights.

Screenshot 2015-10-11 10.02.06National Coming Out Day was founded in 1988 to commemorate the 1987 March on Washington, an act of civil disobedience that saw half a million march for increased LGBT civil and social rights, decriminalization of sodomy laws, stronger AIDS advocacy and activism, and the debut of the AIDS Quilt.  At the time, consenting adults in a committed relationship could still be arrested for sexual relations in a private home.

The March is commonly seen as a turning point in modern LGBT culture and one of the largest demonstrations of LGBT activism in American history.  And the battle is not over yet.

We strongly believe that discrimination against anyone holds everyone back.  We also believe that the more visible, the more vocal, and the more relentless the LGBT+ community becomes, the stronger we will be together. And our next generation of LGBT+ leaders needs champions, as much now as they ever did.

As long as there is still a closet to come out of, as long as youth are being denied their right to an authentic life, as long as anyone, anywhere hesitates to admit to themselves or others who they really are…

Coming out still matters.  

Struggling with your sexual identity?  Milwaukee Pride, Inc. is proud to recommend our family partner organizations, ProjectQ and PFLAG Milwaukee, as supportive, confidential and life-changing resources.  We also recommend the Human Rights Campaign Coming Out Center for additional online resources.