Happy National Coming Out Day!
For the last 30 years, people have celebrated coming out as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer (LGBTQ) person. We do this because one of the most basic forms of activism an LGBTQ person can do is to be themselves.
As I started to realize I might be gay, I asked myself questions. Questions about religion, what legal rights I would give up as an openly gay man, and how I could have a family in the future. Even after coming out 8 years ago to my family — those questions lingered.
The fight for marriage equality was ongoing as was the battle for equal benefits. I felt like I had to do something but I wasn’t about to get married or get benefits — I did, however, want to give blood.
The problem was that I couldn’t. The FDA had a lifetime ban on gay men giving blood as a result of the 1980’s HIV crisis. So, I started organizing. Joining a small team, we put on over 60 events nationwide to protest the policy, while collecting lifesaving blood from allies.
In 2015, as the voices of 50,000 Americans echoed, I spoke in front of a Department of Human and Health Services committee — not as a medical expert, but as one of the thousands of young gay people wanting to save lives — that eventually voted to modify the ban — now requiring gay men to stay abstinent for one year to be able to donate blood.
While this policy change was personally still a steep price, against better judgment I did it. I complied with the policy and abstained from sex for a year to give blood, completing a nearly three-year journey.
I’ve said all of that to say this: We’re far from living in a near-perfect union, but every person and every vote can make an impact. Today on National Coming Out Day, I hope you will join me in recommitting to fighting for the LGBTQ community and ensuring everyone is protected under law.