Today is National Coming Out Day, a holiday encouraging gay and lesbian people to “come out” and stop hiding their sexuality. Originally celebrated in 1988, National Coming Out Day is observed annually to celebrate coming out and to raise awareness of the LGBT community and civil rights movement. The holiday is observed in a wide variety of ways, from rallies and parades to information tables in public spaces. (source: Wikipedia – National Coming Out Day).
As an openly gay man, I tend to smile at the notion of a “national” coming out day – but then I remember that in an embarrassing number of states one can still get fired simply for being gay. There is also the uncomfortable, escalating number of gay bashings and attacks – a brutal one recently in Pittsburgh and one here in Cleveland as well. And finally – as happy and pleased as I am to be married to my husband, we had to travel to another state that HAS marriage equality for the ceremony. Still-in-the-Stone-Age Ohio does not have married equality. And while my marriage is recognized at the federal level for some benefits, at the state level, my spouse is still a “legal stranger” in the eyes of the law. It is beyond irritating.
So, yeah… I guess I need to remind myself I live in a bit of a bubble. I mean, while Ohio is a back-ass state in the marriage-equality department, Cleveland is a reasonably comfortable city to “be a gay” in. I am fortunate to be self-employed so I have the luxury of being “out-n-proud” without worrying about consequences. And I have an amazing family, both nuclear and extended, as well as the most fabulous circle of friends, gay and straight. I am blessed…
So I forget that there are people not as lucky or fortunate as me – people that still speak in gender-less pronouns when they share stories (“We really didn’t do anything – we just sorta’ hung out.”) There are people living where it is not safe for them to be openly gay, part of cultures that are not at all gay-friendly. There are people worrying about getting fired for simply being who/what they are. There are people being bullied for “being different.” There are people forced to hide every day in plain sight for all of the reasons listed, and more. It makes me sad.
So today, on National Coming Out Day, instead of taking my life for granted, I will appreciate it and commit to helping others achieve a similar life. I promise to work to make the world a safer place for all of us, gay and straight. And I will push for a future where National Coming Out Day is a faint, nostalgic memory, no longer celebrated or necessary because we will have FINALLY achieved true LGBT equality.