I’ve had a couple of requests for my the essay I submitted to local papers here on National Coming Out Day. Here it is.
National Coming Out Day is for Straight People Too
This year National Coming Out Day comes of age as it celebrates twenty-one years since the The March on October 11, 1987 when GLBT people gathered in Washington, D.C. to demonstrate for their rights and their acceptance in America. National Coming Out Day serves as an annual reminder that many are still not free to be who they are in the land of the free and the home of the brave; that there are some are who are not included in “we the people” because of their sexual orientation. As National Coming Out Day turns twenty-one, the bigotry that stems from fear continues to turn into violence that is all too often aimed at our young people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered.
Growing up should be a safe time and GLBT young people should have safe places and safe people they can go to and confide in as they discover and celebrate who they are. Unfortunately there are still those who promote attitudes of bigotry and hatred towards gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. Our young people see this and as they grow up they realize that if they are gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgendered they face anything from ridicule to physical violence to death for just being themselves.
National Coming Out Day is not only a day for GLBT people to come out and proclaim their authentic selves to family, friends, and the world and take pride in who they are, but it’s also a day for non-gay people, straight allies to come out in support of GLBT family, friends, neighbors and coworkers, thus making our community, our churches, our workplaces and our schools safer.
National Coming Out Day turns twenty-one this year the same weekend we mark the tenth anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard, a twenty-one year old University of Wyoming student who was brutally beaten near Laramie on the night of October 6-7, 1998 and died a few days later on October 12. Russell Arthur Henderson and Aaron James McKinney were convicted of kidnapping and murdering Shepard. Their motive: Shepard was gay.
In Swan Lake, NY in October of 2007 two 17-year-olds attacked and beat a 14-year-old boy because he was gay according to local police. The incident was treated as a hate crime.This past February, Larry King, a 15 year-old boy was shot dead by another boy, Brandon McInerney, 14, during the middle of class at Oxnard, California’s E. O. Green Junior High School because Larry had dared to give Brandon a Valentine’s Day card.
Capitol Metro bus number 339 in North Central Austin kept right on moving on September 16, 2008 as Jason Daley was attacked for being gay, beaten so that he sustained a gash above his eye and reported blood and glass in his eye and losing consciousness.
Unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents. Equality Texas reports that of the 1,862 hate crimes reported in Texas between 2001 and 2006, only 9 have been prosecuted. Suicide rates for gay teens are reported to be four times as high as for nongay teens. The American Psychological Association in a report to the U.S. Senate in 2001 stated that suicide is the leading cause of death for gay teens.
National Coming Out Day is a day to come out against violence, discrimination and bigotry. It’s also a day to come out against hate cloaked as love. Some people claim they are open and accepting, but all they want is an opportunity to speak to queer folk about how much God loves them and how sinful it is to be gay.
It is not sinful to be gay. Gay is just another state of being, like being Black or Asian or having blue eyes or being German or being short. It’s just one of the great many and varied ways human beings are. There is nothing wrong with a person who is gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgendered. The wrong is in the hatred, discrimination and bigotry aimed at the GLBT community. Clothe it in whatever language you will, give it whatever reason you wish, bigotry is bigotry. Coming Out Day is an opportunity for non-gay people to come out as safe people and for workplaces, churches and schools to come out as safe places.
Put up an equality symbol, such as the yellow on blue equals sign of the Human Rights Campaign or a Rainbow Flag on your window, desk or car. Let people know you are safe and are an ally. Come out as a safe person and a safe place and make coming out easier for those whose true courage and true example to all of us is just in being themselves. Above all, coming out is a way to stand on the side of love. We owe it to our GLBT family, friends and neighbors, we owe it ourselves, and most of all, we owe it to our children.
Rev. Tony Lorenzen
Minister, Pathways Church