01908: Celebrate Coming Out!

October 11 is National Coming Out Day, although thanks to the rather universal nature of this "holiday" and how the internet makes the world a much smaller place, it's probably more appropriate to call this International Coming Out Day.

Today is a day geared towards celebrating the value in coming out among members of the LGBT community. There are few things that any gay man, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender woman that we all universally fear to some extent is the virtual rite of passage known as coming out. And it's never simple - there are always going to be layers upon layers of coming out needed whether we're talking about family, close friends, office mates, distant relatives and new people that you meet.

As much as we say that there's a lot more to an LGBT person than their sexuality or gender identity, it's also a key part of our personal identity that we eventually want to make clear. Coming out to a person is not for the benefit of the "recipient" or whatever you want to call the person - it is for the benefit of the person who is coming out. Given the current nature of our society and global views related to homosexuality and other unique gender concepts, it's never perfectly easy to do this. Many people prefer to adopt a passive "don't ask, don't tell" practice since they'll insist that it's none of anyone else's business.

But coming out also plays a key role in the greater LGBT rights struggle and I will continually stress this point to other gay friends who argue against the value of coming out. There is strength in numbers as they say but this is not forming pink gangs that can intimate homophobic bullies from attacking queers. It's more about being counted, showing the world that we're not all that different from anyone else and we fully have the same claim to human rights and fair treatment as all other human beings. We also get people more and more used to seeing LGBT people living happy, normal lives, instead of giving in to their fears of "recruitment drives" that target children or other strange internet rumors.

Coming out is a great burden as well. At times it feels that it needs an almost Herculean effort to lift this weight off your shoulders and to those who are fortunate enough to be entrusted with that moment of coming out, be a decent human being. Thank that person for coming out and choosing to do so with you - it means that you are important to some extent. That you potentially play an important role in that person's life. Don't ridicule them or immediately get into crass questions about gay sex and all that. Welcome them with open arms to the next part of their life.

Happy (Inter)National Coming Out Day! May you add another story to the rich tapestry of our shared human experience.