Today, ThoughtLab applauds the bravery of the LGBTQ+ community and celebrates #NationalComingOutDay. We rejoice in the diversity of life, culture, and the opportunity to learn, grow and understand everyone.
National Coming Out Day happens every year on October 11. This day marks the anniversary of the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay rights. National Coming Out Day is meant to celebrate and support the moment when a person “comes out” and they decide to publicly share their sexual orientation or gender identities. It’s a day to celebrate bravery, struggle, awareness, peace, and unity.
It’s a day for those who are LGBTQ+ to stand together and support and hopefully show those who are not members of that community that there is nothing to fear. There is no reason not to accept them. Never forget that no matter their gender identification or sexual orientation, they are human beings and deserve the same rights and respect to which every human on earth is entitled.
There is much to celebrate on National Coming Out Day and much to learn.
It Is Not Easy
The LGBTQ+ community has had to fight hard for a long, long time. Being recognized, feeling legitimate, and having a place in the world has not come easy. These folks have fought and made their voices clear, present, and essential.
During the previous administration, the community had a hard battle, being promised “unprecedented steps” toward equality and recognition, which turned out to be nothing more than gaslighting, lies, and efforts to destroy LGBTQ+ rights. Here are some of the outright acts of sabotage Former President Trump and his administration tried to pull:
- They opposed the Equality Act. A guarantee critical non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, among other crucial rights.
- Appointed anti-LGBTQ+ judges. He appointed seriously anti-LGBTQ+ judges with alarming anti-LGBTQ+ records to appointments at every level of the judicial system, including anti-equality Supreme Court Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh and federal nominees Kacsmaryk, Mateer, Bounds, Vitter. Menashi and others.
- Supported employment discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. The administration submitted amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court supporting discrimination against LGBTQ+ people.
- Rolled back Obama-era non-discrimination protections. Trump’s Department of Justice upended previous DOJ interpretations of the Civil Rights Act that protect transgender and non-binary workers from employment discrimination and ceased enforcing non-discrimination protections as well as taking a hostile stance to LGBTQ+ workers in court.
And that is just to name a few. The point here is that for the LGBTQ+ community, it seems as if it is one step forward, 99 steps back. It is a never-ending battle that they continue to fight bravely, continuously, and unified. That is something to be looked at with pride.
No, Coming Out is Not Easy
This country has an unhealthy attachment to celebrities. People spend so much time following their lives and trying to imitate them as if they aren’t just people like the rest of us. Fame is not a strand of DNA, nor does money make you a better person. However, there have been times when celebrities used their celebrity to further a cause, bring awareness, and give those who don’t have a movie poster hope and encouragement. And there are times when this celebrity can be a double-edged sword.
In recent years we’ve been witness to a number of celebrities coming out grandly and explosively. Ellen Degeneres had a very flashy coming out that was hailed and appreciated by many. It was brave, it was incredibly public, and she set the stage for many.
Others have done so in a more casual, nuanced way; Anderson Cooper, for one, came out very casually, and that too was praised, hailed, and welcomed. Despite all the bells and whistles, Cooper’s coming out is just as important and impactful as Degeneres’.
Here’s the second edge of that sword. Mainstream media, a strange and unmanageable beast in its own right, has taken to saying that since these celebrities have come out with no apparent blowback to their lives and careers, that coming out is not a big deal any longer. Well, that is simply not true.
The Process is Individual
Just because Anderson Cooper of CNN fame came out in a casual way, that doesn’t mean that Andy Cooper of Grant City, Missouri, raised strict Baptist by God-fearing parents, can come out just as casually. Ellen Degeneres came out on national TV where she was given a standing ovation, hugs by other celebrities, and a positive write-up in the papers the next day. That’s great. However, Eleanore Degeneres, born with the bible belted to her life in Chattanooga, Tennessee, isn’t going to receive the same fanfare as the talk show host.
Coming out, just because we see it every day on TV or read about it online or in magazines, is not easy. The fear of retribution is real and overpowering. The fear that family and friends will no longer love you and that your eternal soul will be damned to the fires of hell is extremely real and terrifying for some.
So, a celebrity coming out does not make it easier for every single gay, lesbian, bi, queer, trans plus person to come out. It just doesn’t. And for the mainstream media to minimize the act, somehow make it seem nonchalant or simple, is just one more block in the road that LGBTQ+ people have to circumvent to get to where they want and deserve to be.
Kudos to Mr. Cooper for all he has done. And bravo, Ms. Degeneres, for the ground you’ve covered so others can tread. But, there are still boys and girls, men and women who are aching to be themselves, be free, but fear and insecurity, lack of support and understanding hold them fast in the closet where life is dark and the days drip by like water into a bottomless bucket.
Do not for one second believe that coming out is easy just because People magazine runs a story about a celeb who has just done it.
I have heard people say, “I have no idea what I’d do if someone came out to me.” I am sure that can be a daunting situation to ponder; however, what YOU do is simple. You listen, and you support. You hold a hand, give a hug, let that person know they are safe with you. What you don’t do is judge, question, or condemn.
The person coming out is the person who is doing. They are laying their fear aside and speaking a profound truth to you. If you understand what that takes, then you’ll know that you’re being trusted and loved. The need to make this statement takes a great deal, and that you have presented them with a safe harbor to finally speak that truth and start down the path to truly being themselves.
Do not assume that because a person is coming out to you, they are hitting on you. That’s insulting, egotistical, and just not the case most times. Just be present and supportive and stop thinking about yourself. Think about the courage it takes to come out and think about how wonderful it is that the person coming out feels comfortable enough, safe enough with you to share the information with you.
ThoughtLab Supports and Rejoices
ThoughtLab is, first and foremost, people. All kinds of people doing different jobs for all types of people. We celebrate holidays and social activities like Gay Pride. We rejoice in the diversity of life, culture, and the opportunity to learn, grow and understand everyone.
On National Coming Out Day, we think of our LGBTQ+ friends, family members, clients, co-workers and thank the cosmos that they are in our lives, that we can be there to support and love them.
We hope that you will be present for someone who is taking this complicated very personal step. That you make the coming out easy, respectful, and welcome.
Remember, right now, it is not easy, and our LGBTQ+ friends still have many struggles ahead. We look forward to the day when acceptance and understanding have supplanted the struggles, the hate, the lack of understanding, and the bigotry. For now, we stand with our friends and family members, applaud the courage and the tenacity of the LGBTQ+ community and do all we can to make gentle the life of their world.