Saturday, October 11, 2014

Celebrating National Coming Out Day... for allies

I date and am attracted to people of all gender identities. I am a part of the LGBTQ community.
Sometimes I dress like the bisexual pride flag.

Now that we've got that out of the way--let's talk about National Coming Out Day.

National Coming Out Day was started in 1988 on the anniversary of the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights the year before, founded by activists Rob Eichberg and Jean O'Leary. The goal of National Coming Out Day was and is to celebrate and build awareness around the act of coming out, and around out LGBT people (sources 1 2).

I am lucky that coming out for me has been pretty easy, because it's mostly been correcting people's assumptions. I don't have to let people know I am bisexual/pansexual because I "pass" for straight, but I choose to in order to increase awareness and challenge people to practice inclusivity and acceptance day to day, not just say it.

I am lucky. More than 80% of LGBTQ youth will be harassed at school for their identity40% of homeless youth are LGBT, most of whom are homeless because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In 29 states it's legal to file someone for their sexual orientation; for their gender identity in three moreEight trans* women of color have been killed in anti-LGBT violence in the last 4 months in the United StatesIt is illegal to be gay in 81 countries.

All this is to say, coming out is hard, scary and dangerous. So on National Coming Out Day we celebrate those who are able to come out and be out, and we spread awareness for those who are not.

So this year, I want to give a call to action to allies and how they can celebrate National Coming Out Day. Yes, you can come out too, as an ally, and that is a big step. But do more than just saying you are an ally, be one.

Today, ask yourself, "if someone close to me was coming out, would they feel comfortable telling me? How would I respond to them? How might they think I would respond to them? Have I actively created a safe space? Am I practicing openness and inclusion to the point that someone would know they can safely come out to me?"

You can build trust, understanding and acceptance with all the people close to you, LGBTQ or not. While you can't (really, please don't try) make anyone come out, You can actively create an environment that makes it a little less scary to come out in by considering the language and actions you use every day, by demonstrating support to people who are different from you, by speaking truth against oppressive power (even/especially when that power doesn't affect you). Read about and learn about the coming out experience and the discrimination those who are out (and those who are outed) face. Understand it's reality and fight back against. Let others see you do this and know that you are an ally and that you are safe.

Happy National Coming Out Day!