Friday, October 11, 2019

An Old Breeder Celebrates National Coming Out Day

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 more 30 years in a conservative county where Gays, lesbians, and transgender folk used to live in such fear that it was only in the last dozen years or so that they felt comfortable enough to organize and publicly appear at  the old Diversity Day Festival  and and march local parades as McHenry County Pride.  This year Woodstock Pride organized an enormously sucesful Pride Fest that drew thousands to the Square.
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  all descriptions are just that—families;  and where no one has to “represent” their their sexual/gender identity, just live it.  It was not always smooth getting there, but it feels so right.
Because my life was enriched by our participation in the campaign for Marriage Equality in Illinois and by all of the wonderful people I met in that happily successful struggle.
Because I have transgender folk in my extended family and have known and appreciated others at all stages of their transition.  

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.
Social media like this Tweet is an important was of spreading and supporting Coming Out Day

Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), long a supporter of gay, lesbian and transgender justice, is a supporter and participant in the Project. 
The in 2012 the Standing on the Side of Love campaign, now known as Side with Love, founded by the UUA, had  suggestions for Ten Ways You Can Make a Difference on Coming Out Day including in part:

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.

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. 

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.

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. 

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:

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.

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. 

Trans Coming Out Day logo from The Advocate,

Since those recommendations were published it seemed that great progress was being made in the public acceptance of LGBTQ individuals.  The Marriage Equality movement triumphed state by state and was finally upheld by the Supreme Court.  Poll numbers that showed wide spread “acceptance” of “alternative life styles” representing a majority even in conservative, Bible belt states.  LGBTQ themes and characters became common on television and film.  Pop icons like Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift  produced chart topping anthems.  

Unfortunately, not everyone got the memo.  Those who find anything but the most narrowly defined heterosexual behavior an abomination now feel alienated and beset upon themselves and have dug in more fiercely than ever.  Some have become more violent in their lashing out.  And finally, even among the well meaning, struggling to get past old and ingrained beliefs can be difficult when it comes to family members—both on the straight and gay sides of the equation meaning it can still be an emotionally wrenching experience.

Just as cultural victory seemed at hand and irreversible, a backlash has developed egged on by the rabid religious right and abetted and encouraged by the identity politics of Donald Trump.  The Supreme Court now stacked with Trump appointees seem poised to reverse protections for LGBTQ individuals in employement and public accomodations.  Transgender fold a particular targets.  Hate crimes are up across the board, especially murderous assaults on Trangender women and men of color.

Coming Out Day is one way the LGBTQ community and their allies can fight back against bigotry and hate crimes.

In the face of the new reality coming out takes courage but is more important than ever for both individuals and society.

Come out, come out where ever you are!  We’ve got your back.

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