Today is National Coming Out Day! A day to celebrate and raise awareness of LGBTQ history and issues. A day to recognize the courage of people who knew coming out was not only risking the loss of friends, family, employment, and housing, but also risking personal safety. A day to honor those who came before and lost everything, sometimes their very lives, to pave the way for future generations.
I have personally never come out, I’ve never had to. I have never felt the fear of telling my family something about myself that might shatter them to the core. Nothing in my life has caused my family to think I needed to be “fixed” through conversion therapy. My family never threw me out on the street when what I needed most was their support, love and understanding. There has been nothing about my existence that others felt so threatened by that might cause them to loathe my very being alive.
My family was likely pretty disappointed in me when I told them I was going to be a single parent at 18, but not once did they threaten to kick me out, disown me, drag me to damaging therapy, or threaten me in any way. I was then, and continue to be, the luckiest damn person on the planet to have been born into this particular family! Nope, that experience doesn’t hold a candle to what our many of our LGBTQ folks have experienced.
I’ve never NOT felt loved.
Lately I’ve had the chance to interact with some pretty remarkable kids and their equally remarkable parents. The kids have already summoned the courage to come out to their parents and in some cases their entire community circle. They hold their heads high, but their vulnerability is palpable. These kids are innocent but wise, playful but reserved, eager but cautious. The parents have wrapped their arms around their kids, trying desperately to balance the fierce instinct to protect them while helping them embrace their unique being and live out loud. They’ve renewed my faith in humanity and buoyed my hopes for the future.
As Carli was coming out to the world I was there to love and support her. I proofread her coming out letter to family and the email to her coworkers. I walked beside her the first time she went into the women’s dressing room at the department store. I helped her pick out lipstick and eye shadow, even though I really know nothing about make up at all. I held her hand tight while she told her parents what she knew would shatter them to the core. But it was not my coming out, it was hers, and I was her witness.
I am grateful for the opportunity to stand beside Carli as she summoned the courage to do the impossible. I am grateful for the chance to interact with the kids who hold the future in their hands and hearts.
Because of those who had the courage to come out decades ago, and those who have the courage to come out today in what is a very scary world, coming out won’t always be remarkable, it will just be beautiful.