Today is the 31st National Coming Out Day. This post is an update from the one I shared last year.
I started coming out as gay when I was nearly 19 during the summer after freshman year of college. It was a long slog. I had many, many one-on-one conversations that left me emotionally exhausted. I’m so glad I did. I’m now out to friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, and more. I met my boyfriend five years ago. We studied and traveled together in Liverpool and are approaching two years living together in Boston. Every time I meet new people and introduce or mention him I am coming out.
There is no right time or way to come out. Coming out can be to one person in-person or countless people all at once online. I am grateful that my family and friends have accepted and supported me. Not all friends and families do. Those of us who can come out safely must. Even today, coming out is important.
As one of the first openly gay elected officials, Harvey Milk declared that we must come out to “break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions” surrounding LGBTQ+ individuals. The experience of LGBTQ+ individuals in the US has come a long way since Milk spoke in 1978. Same sex marriage is now legal nationwide, LGBTQ+ people fought for and now have access to effective long-term treatments for HIV/AIDs, and the representation of LGBTQ+ people has increased in music, movies, and (some) sports.
In the last year, I witnessed the raising of the Pride flag at Lowell City Hall, attended the Boston Pride Parade for the second year in a row, and celebrated with friends at the Rhode Island Pride festival in Providence for the first time. I changed my Twitter name to include a rainbow flag during Pride and have left it unchanged since then. I explored gay bars in Cincinnati and Zona Rosa, the LGBTQ+ neighborhood in México City.
Last November, nearly 68% of Massachusetts voters said YES to uphold a ban on discrimination based on a person’s gender identity. Boy Erased, the biographical drama about conversion therapy, also premiered that month. In April, Massachusetts became the 16th state to ban conversion therapy, with Maine becoming the 17th in May—but it’s still legal in Tennessee, the setting of the film. The 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots was celebrated at World Pride in NYC.
Lori Lightfoot was sworn in as Chicago’s first black woman and openly gay Mayor. Pete Buttigieg, the openly gay Mayor who served in the Afghanistan for the US Navy during Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, is a serious contender for the Democratic Presidential nomination. Just last night, CNN and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) hosted the first Presidential Candidates town hall focused exclusively on LGBTQ+ rights. These are all milestones that we must celebrate, but the fight is not over.
For the third year in a row, the current President declined to declare Pride Month in June. He went further to ban US Embassies from raising the Pride flag. On Tuesday, the Justice Department argued before the US Supreme Court that Title VII does not protect LGBTQ+ individuals from being fired solely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s still legal to do so in 29 states. LGBTQ+ youth are still three times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers—please share this guide to coming out with any teens who might benefit from it. Hate crimes against LGBTQ+ individuals are still unacceptably high. HRC documented at least 26 murders of transgender individuals in 2018 and at least 19 so far in 2019. Bailey Reeves, the youngest victim in 2018 was, only 17.
National Coming Out Day is a celebration of LGBTQ+ people and how far we have come. National Coming Out Day is also a reminder that we need to keep turning out, speaking out, and coming out for everyone in the closet today and anyone who we can save from being in one in the future.
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