Why would a fat old breeder like me celebrate National Coming Out Day? Because like almost everyone, I have known and loved gay and lesbian folk my entire life—even when I did not know, or was not supposed to know the “truth” about them.
Because I was bullied and tormented in school—queer bait was a particular taunt aimed at a bookish kid who didn’t fit in—and saw worse.
Because one of my closest friends in the tight knit and open circle of young Wobblies in Chicago in the early ‘70’s was afraid to come out even to us—although we all knew it. We all had to pretend. He was the first person I knew who died from AIDS.
Because I have lived for nearly 30 years in a conservative county where gays, lesbians, and transgender folk lived in such fear that it was only in the last 10 years or so that they felt comfortable enough to organize and publicly appear at Diversity Day and local parades as McHenry County Pride.
Because I have a beloved granddaughter who is managing the still frightening experience of being openly gay in her high school and who is lucky to have the full support of her loving parents, grandparents, and aunts.
Because I have lived through the joy worshiping in a place where the most important thing is who you are, not who you are sleeping with; where families of descriptions are just that—families; and where no one has to “represent” their life, just live it. It was not always smooth getting there, but it feels so right.
Coming Out Day was first organized on October 11, 1988 in commemoration of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights by New Mexico psychologist Robert Eichberg and Jean O’Leary, an openly-gay political leader from Los Angeles and head of the National Gay Rights Advocates. By its second year it had grown to be celebrated in 21 states and by 1990 was observed in all 50 states. It is now also observed in other countries including Australia, Canada, Croatia, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
Since 1990 it has been sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign as the National Coming Out Project.
Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), long a supporter of gay, lesbian and transgender justice, is a supporter and participant in the Project.
The Standing on the Side of Love campaign, founded by the UUA, has these suggestions for Ten Ways You Can Make a Difference on Coming Out Day/
1. Share Your Coming Out Story
Many people think when you come out friends and family, you’re “out”—case closed. But the closet door often swings open and shut again and again. Whether it’s your medical provider, a new coworker or neighbor, the owner of a B&B you want to stay at, or an employer, LGBTQ (Lesbian/Gay/Bi-sexual/Transgender/Questioning) people find ourselves coming out again and again in ways big and small. Maybe it’s subtly dropping a pronoun. Or answering the glare from someone who doesn’t think the gender marker on our driver’s license matches our presentation. Indeed, coming out is a lifelong process, not an event.
“Coming out” can apply more broadly than just to the LGBTQ community. By sharing our vulnerabilities and our authentic selves—whether or not what we are disclosing is identity-based—we can help others on their own path. Sharing something personal to help others is so brave, and receiving that story is a special gift.
Share your coming out story so that others can learn from your wisdom. In what ways do you find yourself coming out at this point in your life? What advice would you offer others? Send your coming out story to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will choose a few to share on our blog.
2. Join the Chorus to Defeat DOMA
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is dying a slow death. Several federal judges have ruled it unconstitutional to deny federal benefits to legally married couples, and the U.S. Supreme Court could decide any day to take up challenges to DOMA in its next term. More states have extended the freedom to marry, and more Members of Congress have co-sponsored the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA. Whether DOMA falls by the hands of Congress or the U.S. Supreme Court, a chorus of voices is needed to ensure that DOMA stays dead and buried.
Come out today for dignity, respect, justice and equality under the law. Click here to ask your congressional representatives to repeal DOMA.
3. Tweet Your Faith: Speak Out for LGBT Equality
“It always seemed to me a bit pointless to disapprove of homosexuality. It’s like disapproving of rain.” – Francis Maude
Sometimes, a simple quote goes a long way. This National Coming Out Day, leverage social media to make a statement! It’s stunning to think about the sweeping changes that social media platforms have created for human connections at all levels. Today, connect with your virtual friends on Twitter and Facebook and share a pro-LGBTQ quote or saying. Click here to use our “tweet your faith” tool.
While you’re at it, use social media to speak out against casual homophobia too. Use the hashtag “#nohomophobes” to call out this hurtful language wherever you see it.
4. Take Action for Marriage Equality
With the November election fast approaching, there is great hope that this year will be a tipping point for LGBTQ equality at the ballot box. Voters in Washington, Maine, and Maryland have the opportunity to approve marriage equality laws, while Minnesota voters will hopefully vote “no” to writing discrimination into their state constitution.
Are you ready for your Vacation for Equality? Come out and spend a week, two weeks, or a month—the time commitment is up to you—working on one of the equality campaigns. United for Marriage will work with you every step of the way to arrange your travel, housing, and transportation. You’ll receive a full orientation and training, and then work with a dedicated team on a campaign to win marriage equality. Click here to learn more and sign up.
Can’t travel? Use HRC’s revolutionary Call4Equality tool that uses the power of Facebook to let you get in touch with the people you know in these states. Call4Equality reminds you who you know in these states and then automatically creates personalized call lists and scripts for you to drum up votes and volunteers in this election. Click here to get involved.
5. Channel Creativity to Inspire Others
Here’s a great way to make sure your voice is heard on National Coming Out Day: Chalk! You have to admit, when you see brightly colored chalk, you take note of what is being said. Why not use this opportunity to reach out to individuals who feel trapped in their own closet? Let them know “Gay is Good,” or “Gender Doesn’t Matter,” or whatever phrase speaks to you personally. This is also a great activity to get LGBTQ advocates of all ages involved on National Coming Out Day. Even though chalk is washable, please check your community’s policies on sidewalk chalk and be mindful about where you chalk and who might be responsible for cleaning up your messages.
If you have a chalking photo with a positive message, today or any day over the next month, share your photo on our Facebook page and we’ll repost it for everyone to see.
6. Become a Mentor (…and bring your honest, best self!)
There is no doubt that LGBTQ youth face unique challenges in our society. But many adult LGBTQ people shy away from mentoring, and the opportunity to provide guidance and support to young people, because we fear being discriminated against ourselves. Come out as a mentor! Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) has endorsed nondiscrimination principles for 25 years that cover sexual orientation, race, religion, and ethnicity. Ten years ago, the sexual orientation provision became a mandatory policy for all of the organization’s affiliates. Click here to find a local affiliate near you.
BBBSA focuses on helping kids of single parents, and may not focus on unique problems facing LGBTQ kids. So learn what you can about other local organizations working to mentor LGBTQ youth—for instance, the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, Leading Youth Forward Every Day in Washington, D.C., or True Colors in Connecticut.
7. Sign Up for Our “Transgender Identity & Inclusion” Webinar (…and tell a friend!)
This interactive, informative webinar, presented by Alex Kapitan of the Unitarian Universalist Association LGBTQ Ministries office, will offer a crash course in transgender identity and provide practical and concrete ways to increase your mindfulness and support of people of all identities and ways of expressing gender. Join us to learn more about the oft-misunderstood “T” part of the acronym and bring a friend!
The Transgender Identity & Inclusion Webinar will be held on Wednesday, October 17 from 7:00-8:15 ET. Click here to RSVP.
8. Embrace Intersecting Identities
Some of the bravest examples of “coming out” involve DREAMers–undocumented youth hoping for a brighter future and advocating for passage of the DREAM Act. Some of those DREAMers are also LGBTQ-identified. Now, more than ever, LGBTQ advocates are embracing the intersections of our movement with movements for immigrant rights, women’s rights, and racial justice.
Today, come out as an advocate for justice for all by sharing this photo via social media:
9. Come Out in Your Community
Years ago, the phrase “We’re Here, We’re Queer, Get Used to It” took hold. Sadly, many people are still not “used to it,” and continue to work against LGBTQ equality. Sometimes it feels good to show up without apology, demanding to be seen as we are, protesting the societal structures that seek to keep us down. This National Coming Out Day, consider holding a kiss-in in your community. Has your city council failed to pass an inclusive anti-discrimination law? Hold your kiss-in in the public square outside the municipal government building. Feeling the heartburn over Chick-fil-A’s anti-LGBTQ donations? Make a statement outside a local franchise.
10. Have a Conversation with Someone New about LGBTQ Equality
Do you have a friend, family member, or neighbor with whom you avoid talking about LGBTQ equality? Use National Coming Out Day as a conversation starter and share why LGBTQ equality is important to you. Conversations and personal stories make a difference and can really change the way people think about these issues. Check out this guide from the Minnesota marriage equality campaign for more information on starting these kinds of conversations.