Today is National Coming Out Day, a day that recognizes the courage it takes to live openly as a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individual, and reminds us that there are many out there who still can’t be open because of the intolerant communities in which they live. It is more important now more than ever for the lgbt community to stand up and be counted. I’ve always had the same philosophy as the great Harvey Milk: If they know us they are more likely to vote for us.
I do recognize that each individual should come out in their own time and there are many communities where coming out can be down right deadly, such as in Uganda, where they are still considering the Kill the Gays Bill or Jamaica, where it is socially acceptable for citizens to abuse gays openly in the streets. But now more than ever, those who can need to stand up for those who can’t.
Today I’m going to be speaking at a Coming Out Day event at West Virginia University in Parkersburg, a city that I’ve heard is less than accepting. I’ve had many people ask me, “Why are you going down there? You aren’t going to change their minds, and it seems dangerous.” My mother has been trying to talk me out of it all week. She did finally convince me to a least take someone with me. (Being her baby boy has these occasional consequences.)
I’m going because small town communities in states like West Virginia, Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Utah, Colorado, Texas, Minnesota, are where the most closeted of us live. If we don’t start creating communities of inclusion in the most conservative of areas we’ll never win at the ballots, we’ll never see true equality.
That’s why I’ll continue to go to areas that aren’t the most accepting, to encourage their gay citizens to stand up together and be counted, to show the bigoted that we’re not the monsters they think we are. We have families we love, we have jobs, we’re dealing with this shitty economy just like you. Because if I can convince one person to help make their community safer for lgbt people, if I can make one parent see that there’s nothing wrong with their kid, if I can make one preacher come to the realization that we’re not an abomination, then any of the ugliness that I ever endured because of coming out will all be worth it.