Saturday, Oct. 11 is National Coming Out Day. I’ve been coming out since the first time I came out to myself at age 21. Coming out is ongoing. Coming out is layered and messy.
I came out to my mom when she asked. I came out to one of my brothers because he was checking out my girlfriend. I came out to my daughter when I explained what the word gay means, when I had to tell her how gay people are often hated or considered unacceptable.
We met for coffee late that night, as we usually did. I was still in school, and he was working in his studio all day, a glass blower. How could I tell him? What would happen? We taught a Sunday school class at our church at the time. We usually met to go over our big ideas. We always had big ideas. I drew a rainbow on a napkin and handed it to him. “I have something to tell you,” I mumbled. I always mumble when I’m nervous or tired. I was both. He opened the napkin and smiled. He understood right away. I took a breath, relief flooding over me. It’s OK. This time, it’s OK.
Soon after that, my friend was teaching that Sunday school class alone. My out sexuality and refusal to repent meant that I was no longer accepted in my home church. I lost friends. I lost part of myself that I’ve been trying to find again ever since. It’s not always OK to come out.
I come out because others can’t. Because there are teenagers with parents who will kick them out if they do. Because in many countries, homosexuality is a punishable offense. I come out because I need to be a part of a community. I come out because I need allies to support me and the LGBTQ community in the fight for equality and safety. Because if you see me, then you may see others like me. Because we can’t do this alone.
I come out because being seen is being alive. I come out a queer person because gender identity is confusing. I come out as a same-sex parent because it’s not just about me anymore. I come out because you are not alone.
On National Coming Out Day, we often wonder: Does coming out still matter? Annie Lennox recently said, “One day we’ll get rid of this word ‘gay’ because it’s irrelevant.” Maybe she’s right: That language isn’t quite getting this right, that one day who we love won’t matter so much, but coming out will still matter. Even then. Who I am will always matter, even if you don’t approve.