Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Living Fearlessly: National Coming Out Day, October 11

According to Wikipedia, "National Coming Out Day is an internationally-observed day for coming out and discussion about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues. It is observed by members of the LGBT communities and their supporters...on October 11 every year...."

I've often wondered what would happen if all LGBT people came out on the exact same October 11.  What if Monday, October 11 of this year were that day?  Yes, this very year. Just a few short months from now, all people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered would be out. No more closets.  No more hiding.  No more pretending to be something we're not.  Then what?

The reason I bring this up is because I believe there's power in doing something in large numbers.  If just a few do it, there's no impact on a grand scale; however, if many hundreds of thousands, or even millions, do it, all on the same day, don't you think the straight world would sit up and take notice?  Don't you think that all LGBT people, and the ongoing issues we face, would finally be taken seriously, because the straight world would have no choice but to take them seriously?

Our numbers would be too impressive, too overwhelming to ignore.  And straight people, who had thought their families had been spared the blight and embarrassment of someone lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered, would learn otherwise.  They'd realize that uncle who never got married, or that sister who seems to have no interest in boys, or that young son who prefers the arts to athletics, and, yes, even that man who's married to a woman, or that woman who's married to a man--all of them are gay or lesbian or bisexual or even transgendered.  We're everywhere. The problem is that, as a group, we're fractured, separate from each other.  But put us all together, and who knows what we'd be able to do.

I'm in a unique position.  I came out when I was twenty-six, and I've been out to virtually everyone I've come into contact with for over two decades.  I've been in a gay relationship I'm very proud of for eighteen years.  I don't have an employer or co-workers. I live in a suburb of Metro Vancouver and a neighborhood that's been completely accepting of Chris and me.  Oh, and I'll be 51 years old this October 3.

If you haven't put all of the pieces together yet, here's what it all means to me:  I don't give a shit what people think about me being gay.  They can take it or leave it, doesn't make any difference to me.  I'm at the age in my life when I can let go of all that prejudice, bigotry bullshit.  I've earned the right to thumb my nose at anyone who doesn't want to have anything to do with me because of my sexual orientation.  They can stay away from me, and I'll stay away from them. We don't need to have anything to do with each other.  In fact, we'll all be happier that way.  

Ah, the beauty of growing older.  (There have to be some benefits to aging, don't there?) There comes a point where you must stop living your life for everyone else.  You have to make the decision not to be concerned about what other people think of you because of who you're attracted to, who your partner is, who you have sex with, yes, and who you love.  It's none of their damn business.  And if they make it their business, and they don't like it, so what?  Tell someone who cares.

I feel sorry for young people today who believe, for one reason or another, they have to live double lives--out of the closet to a select group of supportive family, friends, and co-workers, and in the closet to anyone who likely wouldn't be supportive, because of their religious beliefs or their personal prejudices, and who could wreak unfortunate consequences.  There are all kinds of blogs at Queer Canada Blogs written by LGBT people across Canada who are typically young, just making their ways in life, and scared to reveal who they really are for fear of what? Losing the love of family and friends, being ostracized, being abused physically, losing their housing or jobs?

That's why I think that if we got everyone to come out this October 11, people would have to deal with us.  There'd be no escaping us.  Our sheer numbers would be so enormous that we'd be in their faces everywhere, utterly unavoidable.  If we could all adopt the attitude that we don't care what the fallout would be related to coming out at the same time, I guarantee you it wouldn't be as bad as you might think (it usually isn't anyway). People would be stunned at just how many of us there really are.

And if the people who mean the most to us rejected us on the basis of our sexual orientation, oh, well, too bad for them.  Their loss.  There'd be enough of us around to support each other and to get us through.  We'd form the families we should have, not the ones we were born into.  

The biggest problem affecting my idea is that, the hardest person we ever have to come out to is ourselves.  It's one thing to admit in the darkest corners of our minds that we're gay--to entertain even the faintest possibility of that--but it's quite another to take that first tentative step out of the closet and to reveal the truth of who we are to others.

The worst damage straight culture has done to us has to do with how it's made us feel about ourselves.  To a large degree, we've accepted that to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered is repulsive, because that opinion has been forced on us in a myriad of ways, and, subconsciously, we've accepted it.  Otherwise, why would we tolerate being in the closet, and living only half a life, even one second longer?    

Coming out is a process.  Wouldn't it be great if all we had to do was decide to come out today and do it?  Unfortunately, for many gay people, coming out takes years.  From the time I first started to accept that I might really be gay to January 1, 1986, when I came out to my mother, nearly ten years passed.  To that point, I fought it all the way.  I would prove to the kids who teased me at school about being gay that I wasn't, or else.  But the most important person I had to prove it to first was myself.  I could no more accept being gay than I could anything else that was utterly outrageous.  

What we need to do is get every gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered person to work on accepting themselves, if they haven't to some degree already, and to take all the steps necessary to come out to family, friends, and co-workers this Monday, October 11, 2010. We need to build them up to the point where they can accept the reactions they receive, good or bad. We need them to know they can not only survive this step, but also they can and will thrive after taking it. Never again will they have to be something they're not, or be a ghost of the full person they were meant to be.

Imagine the power in all LGBT people coming out on the same day.  Imagine the power in laying claim to the fully realized human beings that we have the right to be.  Imagine the power in showing the world where all of us are--in every walk of life, in every neighborhood, in every workplace, in every religious place of worship, in every village, town, and city. LGBT people are everywhere, and until we take ownership of what is rightfully ours, we will allow ourselves to be victimized and to be less than who we are.


  1. Awesome!!
    I'm running the Pride Centre at the UBC Okanagan campus in Kelowna, and would love to celebrate this Coming Out Day with something rad.
    If in all of your wisdom you've had some crazy ideas for things to do but have never gotten around to it, please, share! :D
    (Personally, I think a flash mob on campus would be fantastic but I just don't have the numbers for it!)
    You can contact me at

    Have a lovely day,
    Marissa Brown

  2. Thanks for your comment, Marissa. I appreciate your interest in what I have to say, and I'm thrilled to be asked for advice.

    I assume what you're looking for is a way to make young people on the campus more aware of the existence of National Coming Out Day. To this end, I think the flash mob idea is fantastic (and very contemporary), but I see it succeeding only if you're well connected (that is, if you know a lot of people and can rally them to the cause), or if you involve people from other organizations or groups on campus. Perhaps if you approach them, they will be compelled to help.

    Have you considered searching Google to find ideas for potential activities? I input "National Coming Out Day activities," and I found a site I think you'll be interested in. It lists a number of perfectly viable ideas--some more creative than others--that will surely generate greater awareness. The site is located at May I suggest you look at that, as well as other sites, for ideas that might work for you.

    You can't imagine how excited I am there is such a thing as a Pride Centre at UBC Okanagan campus in Kelowna. When I went to Okanagan College in Kelowna between 1977 and 1979, we had nothing like that. I can only speculate what the reaction of the college's administration would have been to such a concept. The times, they are a changin,' and circumstances are getting better for LGBT people because of leaders like you.

    Thanks again for contacting me, and I wish you every success in your role and in increasing awareness around the issues affecting LGBT people. I'll be thinking about you this October 11, National Coming Out Day. (If you wish, let me know what you decide to do. I'd really like to know.)