October 11 is National Coming Out Day. Two days ago, I was moved to see my friends sharing their stories of coming to accept who they are in a world that still so often tells them who they are is not acceptable. As a society, the US has come a long way on this issue, but still has so far to go.
People who identify as heterosexual (“straight”) and cisgender (grossly: born in a body that, for them, matches who their brains tell them they are) may wonder what the big deal is–may even think all this talk about gender and sexuality is making a mountain out of a molehill. And in a way, people who think that are right: because how I identify in my skin and whom I want to share my life with should not matter… and those things would not matter if all of the ways of being in the world were considered under the umbrella of normal human variation.
But, it continues to be a big deal because the lives of our children are literally on the line. We know that teens who identify as LGBTQIA+ and/or gender non-conforming (GNC) are at a two to three times higher risk of dying by suicide than teens who identify as heterosexual and cisgender. We know one of the number one ways to reduce the risk of death by suicide for LGBTQIA+ and/or GNC teens is having at least one person in their lives who also identifies as LGBTQIA+ and/or GNC, OR, someone who is accepts their identification as LGBTQIA+ and/or GNC.
Maybe one day, we won’t need National Coming Out Day. Maybe one day, there won’t be an implicit assumption that everyone we come across is cisgender and heterosexual (and that if they’re not, there’s something really wrong with them). Maybe one day, our children won’t feel like dying is preferable to living with the never-ending stigma of being who they are. Maybe one day, it will finally be illegal to fire people, evict them from their housing, or take away their children simply because they are LGBTQIA+ or GNC.
However, when, in nearly 2020, for every one of us who has the privilege and the luxury of living authentic lives without fear of social, economic, or mortal consequence, there are countless others who can only dream of simply being who they are, we still need National Coming Out Day.
And, in nearly 2020, when hard and fast lines are still being drawn between who gets to consider themselves in the “normal” box and who doesn’t–when we even continue to have the boxes–we still need National Coming Out Day.
As always, I welcome your thoughtful comments and questions.