This coming Saturday, October 11th, is National Coming Out Day to celebrate LGBTQ visibility.
If you aren't a lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and/or transgender person you might think this doesn't apply to you or heck, you might even feel left out. Don't. You matter. You're included.
See, National COD celebrates people being able to live out of the closet and share their sexuality out and proudly. This includes you and the people in your life---I invite you to COME OUT about yourself and the experiences of those you love to bring more visibility to human sexuality.
Even if you don't have to think about it because you have straight and/or cisgender privilege, you have a role to play in what happens to other people in this country and in the world. You can participate in National Coming Out Day, too!
If you're one of those folks who thinks we should all just live out and proud each and every day and perhaps a national day to celebrate this isn't necessary, you're right, I agree with you. We should be able to do that. But unfortunately, we have laws that prevent it in most states and we know individuals hurt and kill people because they don't agree with their "lifestyle" decisions. You might have heard one of the most recent stories about this coming out of Philadelphia. If you read that story, you won't just read about what happened when three young people attacked a gay couple, you will read about the lawmakers who are doing something about it.
Listen, I don't agree with my neighbor's lifestyle decisions across the street. They don't keep their yard clean, yell at each other day and night and shout the F word to their five-year-old son about ten times a day--and he shouts it back to them. But these people, and people like them in other states, get to marry and have children and make decisions about gay and lesbian people who want to marry and have children. And no one has a say about how they live their lives.
This, my friends, is where you come in.
You might have noticed this trend in America and around the world. People are starving, people are killed, people are raped and and experience other countless acts of violence and oppression and when those people speak up, their voices are discounted. Or people like to call them "inspiring" but then they leave the work to those people to do. "You make the changes, you are the ones who need the help---if you can get people to listen and believe you". We see this happening in Ferguson right now, we see it happening in the Middle East conflict, we see it in many places.
Things start to change and shift when other people speak up.
When mothers of trans kids share the impact of being a mother of a trans kid, other mothers listen and shift their thinking about trans kids.
When straight men speak up about having a gay brother, other men shift their thinking about gay men.
When friends speak up about knowing lesbians who are trying to adopt, other people listen and shift their thinking about same-sex/same-gender adoption.
When someone makes a joke about bisexual or bicurious people and someone else says, "shut the he&* up, we're all curious and experiment with people--it's called dating", people shut up and realize it's true.
One thing I've learned as a health coach who shares my own story is that just about everyone is a little bit queer, not everyone actually has the courage to give it a try and/or talk about it.
Or, most people know at least one person who is LGBTQ.
Many people have secrets they aren't sharing--and if they did, it would really change the game for everyone.
Sexuality is stigmatized and made to be weird or wrong in a culture but it can change slowly over time as a result of the collective work of everyone. It's been a long time since I spoke up about these issues because people began framing me as doing only this kind of work---because I claim identities in the alphabet soup of sexual orientation and gender identities outside of straight and cisgender.
A friend of mine STILL asks me how to say the letters correctly. I'm not sure how to respond to her other than to ask what rock she's been living under since 1980. And I get tired of answering the questions. My work as a health coach and consultant is my passion, not continuously educating people about my sexuality. But I'm happy to talk about it now and then, and I'm doing it today.
I'm asking you, the straight, cisgender person reading this to stop calling me and other people like me "inspiring". Start being inspiring yourself and use your voice and your Facebook wall and your blog posts to be authentic about your life and your questions and your struggles. Talk about your kids and their gender expression so other parents can know their kids aren't the only ones. Talk about your siblings and aunts and uncles and mothers and fathers and cousins who are transitioning gender identities. Share your past experiences before you got married. Open up about the lovers you left because you didn't have the courage to be LGBTQ.
COME OUT about LGBTQ people in your life, in your community and in your world. COME OUT as someone who gets it or wants to know more and wants to talk to other straight, cisgender people about these issues. FLY YOUR QUEER-FRIENDLY FLAG so people know they can ask you questions or make comments and move us all one ever-loving step forward.
I don't have all the answers. I have my own life experience. Other LGBTQ don't have the "right" answers, either. We are just people living our lives, like you, only we talk about it because we need things to change to feel like we are treated equally. We share. We make ourselves vulnerable because we choose to. Some might say we have to. The more people open up and share about their questions and experiences with sexuality in general the more we move forward as a human species grappling with making this less of an "issue" in the coming decades.
Can't wait to see what you all do with this on Saturday. :) Don't forget. Set a reminder on your calendar because this coming out thing might be a little new and scary for you and it could be tempting to avoid it and leave it for other people to do. Or not do it all.
And maybe now you get why we need a National Coming Out Day, after all.
Did you know there's a free mobile app about queer/LGBTQ history and shares a story for each day of the year?? It's called Quist and my client, Sarah Prager, created it and it is currently BLOWING UP the internets. Download it here and start getting smarter about something that is more real and more common than you might think.