October 20, 2012
To come out or not to come out…is that the question?
There’s a nationally or internationally assigned ‘day’ for everything now, isn’t there?
There are the nice ones:
21st Jan – National Hugging Day
6th Feb – Pay A Compliment Day
There are the not so nice ones:
13th Feb – Blame Someone Else Day
6th August – Work Like A Dog Day (as a teacher, the timing of this one is particularly entertaining to me)
And the downright weird ones:
26th Jan – Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day
19th Sept – Talk Like A Pirate Day
Incidentally, I once taught a student whose mother religiously observed Talk Like A Pirate Day. It was a source of constant disappointment to me that we never had a Parents’ Evening on this date.
National Coming Out Day
Anyway, October 11th 2012 was National Coming Out Day. At first, I was sceptical. I mean, why particularly assign a day to coming out as being gay? Surely this, one of the biggest and most personal decisions of a person’s life, should be done in that person’s own time, at an appropriate moment for them.
Besides which, for most people this revelation isn’t really planned. Of course, you try to plan it. A thousand different scenarios are envisaged before the real discussion is had: the tears, the shouting, the denial, the ultimate (hopefully) acceptance. But in reality, for me certainly, the subject popped its head over the parapet when I was definitely least expecting it and then it was, well…out.
As a member of the LGBT community, I was uneasy with my feeling that National Coming Out Day was not needed. Indeed, in my more militant moments, I generally considered it to be an example of completely useless propaganda, invented only to remind the masses that gay people were still there. I shocked myself with my own capacity for venom and vitriol.
A proud history
So, not wanting to dismiss anything until I really understood it, I delved a bit further. My first port of call was to find out about the history of the day. This was helpfully provided to me by the Human Rights Campaign website. Essentially, the day commemorates the second LGBT demonstration in Washington in 1987, in which half a million Americans expressed their desire for the LGBT community to have rights and opportunities equal to that of the heterosexual community. Many national LGBT groups were born of this march and, since then, a number of steps forward have been taken: 6 states have now legalised gay marriage, 21 states have outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation and hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity are now punishable by federal law.
Indeed, since 1987, the whole world has become a different place for LGBT people. When I first properly came out, around 12 years ago, I couldn’t have imagined that it would be legal, let alone socially acceptable, for me to publically declare a legal bond with another woman and have children. Now the debate could rage all day as to whether these things have truly been achieved; the gay marriage row quite rightly goes on and yes there are still hurdles to overcome. But, the point is, immense amounts of progress have been made.
I was only 5 when this march occurred and, like many others, I owe the freedoms that I now have to be open about my sexuality to the brave and pioneering individuals who have gone before me.
And that is how I now think of National Coming Out Day. It isn’t, in fact, a day to ensure that you are prepared to tell anyone who will listen that you are gay, or bisexual, or transgendered within a very finite 24 hour window. It is instead a day to celebrate and to remember.
Celebrate our community.
Celebrate our lifestyles.
Celebrate our friends and families.
And remember that, not so long ago, equality was nothing more than a dream. No it’s still not perfect; a quick look at the news most days will tell you that. But that’s when we should use the positivity of a day like National Coming Out Day to remember that, just because it’s not perfect now, doesn’t mean it never will be.
Everybody should be able to be proud of who they are; I know I am. Let’s join together on days like this, LGBT and heterosexual alike, to celebrate. After all, in the words of Fatboy Slim: “We’ve come a long way, baby”.
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