National Coming Out Day is almost here! October 11 of each year marks a pivotal 24 hours for the LGBTQ community as we come together to talk about the personal impact of what coming out means to us and how it has changed our lives for better or worse (with hopefully the former outweighing the latter).
This is, unfortunately, something that I did not get to experience. I was outed by a fellow high school student twenty years ago after I told them about my sexuality in confidence. Little did I know that this person, who I thought was a friend, had an ulterior motive and decided to tell the whole school that I was gay days before I started my freshman year. You can imagine how frustrating and downright scary that could be given how the world was still very much in the closet (no pun intended) about our amazing community.
Instead of denying what he said, I embraced it. I came out afterwards and was lucky enough to be accepted by my peers. I zoomed through high school without ever being called a derogatory name. I’m very lucky to have gone through this as I know millions have not had the same opportunity so my experience with coming out, as you can see, had its highs and lows but ultimately was something incredible for me as I’ve been able to be my authentic self for two decades now.
NCOD is interpreted in so many different ways by many of us who make up our community. Here are a couple of other outstanding individuals who were nice enough to share their take on this amazing day.
Ms. Sean “Summer” Brady, High School History Teacher (she/her/they/them)
“For me National Coming Out Day is an everyday thing, it’s not just a one-time event. Those still in the closet should be empowered knowing it gets easier as time goes on. I’m coming out as a prod non-binary trans person every time I meet someone new, whether it’s a store clerk or a new student. I’ve chosen to live openly hoping to give strength to others.
I’ve had many students tell me that I alone have changed the way they look at the LGBTQ+ community for the better. Progress comes from exposure.”
Maurio Hines, New York Based Singer & Dancer (he/him/his)
“National Coming Out Day is when we honor how brave it is to speak your truth and the willingness to live in that. It is also when we take time to reflect and appreciate those who paved the way to come out at a time when it wasn’t the easiest.”
Jason Jackson, Acclaimed Photographer & Creator Of The Erotiese Project (he/him/his)
“The world today is connected on so many levels. The small ripples we make in one end of the ocean can create a tsunami across the globe. This is a technological age where access to information is instantaneous. Sound bites rule our informational bandwidth and it only takes a moment to be discredited or disparaged by millions.
For me, being out and proud in 2020 means understanding the responsibility as a black gay man to REPRESENT and be VISIBLE. The responsibility to be heard in a way that uplifts my fellow LGBTQ+ people of color is important to me. Don’t get me wrong, party hard and party loud. Don’t ever stop-we have earned it. However, when I have a platform I always try to think back to the LGBTQ+ people of color who faced so much more discrimination and systemic disadvantages in the earlier decades and conducted themselves with such ferocious grace and determination. How could I not want to honor that legacy?”
Being out and proud in 2020 also means recognizing the benefits and privileges we have been afforded because of our LGBTQ+ ancestors and allies. It means recognizing that our constitutional rights are still under attack and we need to continue to fight and honor the benefits we have claimed because of the blood, sweat and tears they shed for us. Do it with DIGNITY and do it with STYLE. That is what it means to be OUT AND PROUD IN 2020.
About the Author:
Ryan Shea is an established writer who has contributed thought-provoking pieces for many different industries. He has worked for major publications including Newsday, Hollywood Life, Instinct Magazine and The Ladders.