October 11 is National Coming Out Day (in the States at least). It started waaay back in 1987, and since has had some neat campaigns aimed at increasing awareness of LGBTQ+ people, and has been a day of mobilization for LGBTQ+ mobilization. For more about the history, check out the Human Rights Campaign which plays an organizing role in ensuring the day is marked loud and clearly.
Particularly in wake of the number of LGBTQ+ youth suicides reported by the media in the past month, National Coming Out Day is a day for everyone to encourage LGTBQ+ people to celebrate their sexuality, rather than hide it and to be themselves in a world that is too often a harsh judge.
It is also a day to think about all the people who don’t come out and to question why society is still such an oppressive place for LGBTQ+ people. We all shape the society we live in with our words and actions, and right now, too many words and actions make the world an unsafe place for youth and others to identify as LGBTQ+. The recent media reports of suicides by LGBTQ+ youth is just one example.
Our words and actions shape the world we live in, and when we use our words and actions, time and talents to support those around us and build a safe, supportive environment in which people can be themselves, we are all further ahead.
Karen Rayne, a sexual health educator in the States wrote a blog post about how we all fail LGBTQ+ youth when we don’t talk about LGBTQ+ issues in our schools and in our lives in ways that we don’t even realize, from the US military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy to sex education that focuses on heterosexual realities (almost) exclusively, to letting it go when people say ‘that’s so gay’, amongst other quips.
American sex columnist Dan Savage responded to 15 year old Billy Lucas‘s suicide after being bullied for being gay by starting the It Gets Better project, in which LGBTQ+ people talk about how being LGBTQ+ gets better. He writes:
I had the same reaction: I wish I could have talked to this kid for five minutes. I wish I could have told Billy that it gets better. I wish I could have told him that, however bad things were, however isolated and alone he was, it gets better.
But gay adults aren’t allowed to talk to these kids. Schools and churches don’t bring us in to talk to teenagers who are being bullied. Many of these kids have homophobic parents who believe that they can prevent their gay children from growing up to be gay—or from ever coming out—by depriving them of information, resources, and positive role models.
Why are we waiting for permission to talk to these kids? We have the ability to talk directly to them right now. We don’t have to wait for permission to let them know that it gets better. We can reach these kids.
Today we have the power to give these kids hope. We have the tools to reach out to them and tell our stories and let them know that it does get better.
The YouTube site is now full of entries, from adults and youth who are LGBTQ+ and their allies. There are a number of parents of LGBTQ+ youth who have written supportive comments about how the project is helping their kids. The project is also creating a lot of creative musical enterprises.
A comment posted on another blog I follow, Feministing, notes that It Gets Better leaves out the reality that It Sucks Now, and that until the part that sucks now is changed, It Gets Better might just be too far away for LGBTQ+ youth to wait. That leaves us going back to what Karen Rayne talks about in terms of promoting positive spaces for youth.
However you identify your sexuality, come out for equality today and every day. Build a positive and safe space for the youth in your life to be who they are, tell you who they are, and talk about who they are…or who they think they might be. It might save a life.