Every October 11th, members of the LGBTQ community from across the country and beyond come together to celebrate National Coming Out Day. This day of celebration, which began after the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, was created to raise awareness and promote a safer world for LGBTQ individuals — a world where everyone can come out without fear of violence repercussions. We’ve come a long way, but there are still many more obstacles to overcome as we fight to change our society into a more accepting place. As we celebrate this day, let's make sure that everyone has the best National Coming Out Day by remembering these seven key points:
1. Not Everyone Is Able To Come Out Today
Yes, coming out takes courage, but not being able to shouldn't make you a coward. Many people still live within communities that are unaccepting and homophobic, places where coming out could mean bullying, alienation, or finding yourself the target of hateful violence. We all want to be loud and proud about our gender identity and our sexual orientation, but this day continues to exist because so many still feel like they cannot live truthfully due to threats within their own environment — from the classroom to their family home. A person may have come out to their friends, but that doesn't mean that they can always speak freely about who they are.
2. Do Not Out Someone Without Their Permission
Seriously. Don't do it. If someone personally comes out to you today, keep your lips sealed shut unless they say otherwise. Outing someone without their permission is a gross violation of trust. I get that everyone's excited and maybe you want to post something on social media about how proud you are of your friends, but you need to make sure that it's okay first! Just because someone's come out to you doesn't mean that they've come out to the rest of the world. Please be respectful.
3. Take Pronouns Seriously
Today is not just a day for revealing sexual preferences. For non-binary, a-gender, or transgender individuals, today can be an announcement (or a reminder) to use their correct pronouns when speaking to/about them on a daily basis. Misgendering hurts and it's awful to see people blatantly ignore preferred pronouns. Make sure that you're using the right pronouns when addressing someone and it's okay to ask! Better to ask than assume. After all, physical appearance does not directly translate into gender identity. Gender is a spectrum, not a binary. Please be mindful.
4. Use Your Social Media For Good
Don't just celebrate, educate. I know it's really tempting to make an Instagram post then move on to the rest of the day. Social media is great because it connects people from all around the world but this day is not about celebration, it's about raising awareness. Share articles about the LGBTQ issues you care about — whether it's violence, health care, dismantling rape culture, or body positivity. In your posts, talk about how the fight still continues. For most of mainstream America, the fight for LGBTQ rights pretty much ended with the legalization of marriage equality. If you're in the LGBTQ community, you know that this is not true so talk about these problems, question authority and mainstream narratives, start conversations.
5. Check Your Privilege
One of the important aspects of intersectionality is recognizing that there are many different kinds of oppression. They intersect, they overlap, and someone may experience more privilege than others while navigating our predominately white, heteronormative society. For instance, a white gay man will not be subjected to as much shaming or threats as a woman of color who identifies as a lesbian. Trans women of color are threatened by more violence than their white counterparts. Wealthier members of the LGBTQ community might not experience the same kind of oppression as a queer poor person. Now I'm not saying that you have to give a disclaimer every time you make a post. Disabled LGBTQ people oftentimes find themselves cut out of the greater dialogue by the dominance of able-bodied voices. Instead, share these stories of those who may be more marginalized than your own, bring those narratives to the forefront. Don't silence someone just because their experience of oppression is different from yours. Don't just talk, listen. For example, body hair positivity might be great, but you don't want to fall into trappings of ignorant white feminism. Pay attention to the stories of POC, see how they vary from yours and recognize how society can oppress us in different ways. This is a day of sharing and learning from one another.
6. Support Your Fellow Queers! Don't Just Celebrate Digitally, Celebrate Locally.
This is so important. If you see someone come out today on social media show your support! It's a big fucking deal! Share your friend's art, support local LGBTQ artists and craftsmen by buying their handmade products or watch films that are made by LGBTQ directors or have accurate representation. If you see someone create a GoFundMe to raise money for college, health expenses, living costs, etc, donate if you're able to. If you can't, share it and send their story along to someone who can. While the Internet's great, don't forget to frequent gay bars or businesses run by LGBTQ people. Support artistic safe spaces, volunteer at educational workshops or fundraising drives, walk in protests and pride marches. Your support keeps these spaces alive in a society that wants them shut down. We're all fighting our own battles, but we grow stronger when we decide to fight them together as a community.
7. Celebrate, But Don't Be Afraid To Mourn
For many of us, today is a happy day but, in the end, we still bear the scars of traumas we've endured. Make today a day of self-love and self-care, but don't completely turn your back on sorrow. If you've personally struggled with mental illness or the effects of abuse, take pride in the fact that you've survived, and you keep on surviving and fighting for your right to exist in this world. If you've lost someone, celebrate their memory, look back on the life they've lived. Remember the names of individuals who have died because of transphobia and homophobia. It is okay to be vulnerable. It is okay to be angry, frustrated and upset, but don't do it alone. Find your network of support, talk about the problems that still tug at your mind, and find healing in this day of sharing and listening. Let' laugh, but let's also take care of each other.
Photos and Gifs via Tumblr
published October 11, 2016
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