Sunday, October 11, 2015

National Coming Out Day

I typed "National Coming Out Day" into the Google News search engine this morning, moved toward "zoom" on the menu because the old eyesight isn't what it used to be --- and inadvertently hit "New Incognito Window" instead.

Not bad symbolism for an old guy who is gay but lived far more years than not in a compartmentalized world --- or as some call it, "the closet." One persona here, another persona there, avoiding collisions between the two at all costs.

So I backed out of "incognito" as quick as I could, opened a plain old "new window" and found "zoom" this time. National Coming Out Day is all about "new window" and "zoom."


The observance was founded in 1988 and planted on Oct. 11, the anniversary of the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

The goal now, as then, is to encourage LGBTQ people still living compartmentalized lives to step out and live authentically --- for their own well-being, for the good of the community and to serve as examples by sharing something of their stories and more of their lives.

The art was designed as a symbol for the day by Keith Haring, activist and artist who died of AIDS during 1990.


I checked the stats this morning, such as they are --- and see that Gallup currently estimates that roughly 3.8 percent of the population identifies as LGBTQ. The flaw here is that no one knows how many men and women still are unwilling or afraid, even anonymously, to acknowledge their sexual orientation or gender identity.

But most agree now that the percentage of the population as a whole is at the most 5 percent --- roughly the same percentage as Asian Americans.

National Coming Out Day isn't intended to shame anyone into doing something he or she isn't yet ready to do --- merely to point out the power of visibility.

Were it not for that visibility, for example, two fairly spectacular women from Texas wouldn't have been able to come home to Chariton during the summer just past and be married by a Presbyterian preacher in the gazebo on the courthouse lawn. Wow.


Very importantly, lives that speak authentically also offer hope to LGBTQ youngsters that wasn't available when I was one.

These guys are born every hour into families of all varieties and their journeys into adulthood begin, now as then, with the gut-wrenching fear that those they love the most will reject them if their "secrets" are shared.

Chances increasingly are, that won't happen --- but too often it does, especially if the family is affiliated with one or another of the conservative religious sects.

So it's important to be very careful and not encourage kids to come out in situations that might endanger them, home, school, church and otherwise.

But it remains very important for LGBTQ adults to be out there, living exemplary lives, so that "our" kids will be able to see that it does, indeed, get better.


I'm going to celebrate National Coming Out Day by going to church, but of course I do that every Sunday. Not because of orthodox belief or conviction, just because I enjoy it --- and I can.

So I'm grateful to those who do believe and came out of what ever closets they were in to stand up and fight for inclusion so that in some churches and in some places LGBTQ people are welcomed.

We all, after all, are children of God --- however you define her.

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