Today is National Coming Out Day, and I wanted to tell everyone reading this that I am gay. A lot of you already know this. It’s been 2 years since I came out to the Internet, 3 since I came out to my friends and family, 4 since I came out to myself, and 14 years since the thought first entered my mind.
As far back as I can remember, being gay was presented to me as a problem. It was something you chose (because it’s unnatural), and it was something you could change (because you would never want it), and it was something you should hide (because it is a terrible secret). Those were the things I was told by society and so those were the things I told myself, lying awake at night in a cold sweat, praying that this creeping feeling would go away and I could live a ‘normal’ life.
Ten years. That’s how long I spent staring at the ceiling in the dark, terrified of myself. Why did it take so long? I came from an extremely loving and supportive family and community. I’ve never really been bullied or threatened or experienced discrimination. Save for a few dirty looks from old men on the street, I am 25 years old and I feel safe. I now know that I have nothing to be ashamed of. I am ‘normal’.
I got out easy. I am one of the lucky ones. But what about the kids across America who are not as fortunate as I was? What about the kids who are disowned and cut off by their own mothers and fathers? What about the kids who are still being told every day by their parents, peers, churches, and presidential candidates, that they are less than equal, and that who they are is wrong?
For those kids, the choice to come out is life threatening, and it’s an environment created by the lack of action from the rest of us. We have to fight harder.
I like what Harvey Milk said in 1978: “Gay brothers and sisters,… You must come out. Come out… to your parents… I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives… come out to your friends… if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors… to your fellow workers… to the people who work where you eat and shop… come out only to the people you know, and who know you. Not to anyone else. But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake. For the sake of the youngsters who are becoming scared by the votes from Dade to Eugene.”
If we don’t stop letting people in power push us around and treat us like we’re less than citizens, things will never get better.
It’s happening again. I’m lying awake in the dark, terrified, trying to figure out what to do. This time it’s because my rights and the rights of those that I love are at stake. I’m confused and upset because I know there are people in my own country who think I am evil and disgusting. They hate me for who I love. They want to make sure I fail, and I just don’t understand why.
I’ll end this with a plea for help. Next month, when you’re in that voting booth making a decision about who will be our leader going forward, I am begging you to please remember your friends and family who need you. Remember that we can’t do this alone. Remember how much we are depending on you to help change how this country thinks of us.
Here, queer, etc.