There is a big doorframe standing on campus in front of the dining hall, the door swinging free on its hinges every couple of minutes as people line up, some jumping out playfully and screaming, “I’m a lesbian!”, others simply walking through, a handwritten sign held haphazardly in one hand, “Genderqueer.” People cycle through the door, each announcement made individually, whether to reinforce the pride in one’s identity, or to take that first step into acceptance of self, that of letting others see you as you are. Each emergence is met with celebration.
Tuesday was National Coming Out Day, the celebration of living and being who you are openly, no matter what that means. Although the celebration tends to be geared more toward the gay and lesbian community, some people come out as feminists, vegans, liberals. The reinforcement of acceptance is what drives the day, and as such it is an important day for the LGBT community and others. Visibility and pride create a dynamic within this celebration which allows people simply to be themselves because there are others willing to take the risk as well.
Coming out is one of the most nerve-wracking and also liberating experiences of the community. No matter the section of the community you belong to, the experience is the same: telling you parents you are gay or genderqueer, telling your friends, your colleagues, your neighbors. Reactions vary from good to bad. Some individuals find support within their families, others rejection. Some experience respect in their workplaces, others lose their careers. It is a distressing journey, one difficult to travel alone, but the reality of National Coming Out Day is you are not alone. Others have faced the difficult discussions, the difficult repercussions, and the freedom found in simply being yourself. It is important to remember that wherever you go, there will always be a support system, if only a keystroke away, and to remember sometimes just a small word can be the difference for one person. So celebrate, and be supportive.