Today is National Coming Out Day. It’s no coincidence that support for our community has skyrocketed over the last decade, alongside the rates of LGBT people being out to their friends, families, colleagues and communities. It’s an experience captured perfectly by the documentary Out in the Silence.
The openly gay filmmakers interviewed a local pastor in Oil City, Pennsylvania named Pastor Mark Micklos near the beginning of the movie. He was vehemently against protections for LGBT people. But filmmakers Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer struck up a friendship with Pastor Micklos and his wife. They attended events and went out to dinner together, and as the pair got to know Joe and Dean, their views radically changed. Now, Pastor Micklos and his wife attend screenings of the film, and describe to audiences this powerful transformation, which was achieved through little more than dialogue.
October 11th, 1987 was the day of the second-ever March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights and the first-ever unveiling of the NAMES Project Quilt. It was also the inspiration for National Coming Out Day, which was founded a few months later. HRC has a wonderful history of the event at its website, as well as some ideas of things you can do on National Coming Out Day. The Equality Forum is also celebrating its fifth annual GLBT History Month throughout October to raise awareness about the contributions of different icons in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community.
This year's National Coming Out day is even more poignant given the rash of teen suicides across the nation due to anti-gay bullying and the recent horrific anti-gay hate crimes in New York City. These incidents remind us that we much stand up together as out LGBT Americans and speak out on our issues.
For people who are coming out, this may be the first time they ever have to talk about LGBT issues, at least from their own personal experience. It can be a tricky topic to navigate, especially for someone who’s kept silent about the issues for all these years.
GLAAD has a series of resources called ‘Talking About’ which can help people learn how to discuss the issues important to our community with others, in a way that can persuade them to support our lives. But the most important thing a person who’s just come out can do is to just be himself or herself.
Tell your stories, share your experiences, announce your equality and be proud of who you are.