It’s National Coming Out Day (NCOD), 2017. Things have changed a lot since 1988, the first one. A few years ago, I wrote about my memories of that day:
I remember the first National Coming Out Day, in 1988. I had my last foot surgery that day, to repair the damages from a series of bungled surgeries. It was at the old Foot Hospital in San Francisco (where the Jewish High School is today). I have a vivid memory of taking two Valium tablets I was offered, and as they were wheeling me off to the operating room, full to the gills of Valium, I delightedly came out to everyone I passed. “Hi! I’m a lesbian! Happy coming out day!” …
The surgery was a salvage job on a poor little foot that was never going to work right or quit hurting, but that ride to the operating room ROCKED.
Back in the day, there were festivities for NCOD, because it was truly dangerous for many to come out. One way we fought the fear was to celebrate. That’s something that’s hard to communicate to the people who object to “Pride” in such movements: we were Proud because if we stopped to be anything else, we’d be terrified.
Today coming out is less terrifying for most white cisgender
gay men and lesbians. Same sex couples can get married in any state in the US. Federally, we have a long way to go: in most states we can be fired for being queer, and we can lose our housing on account of it, too.
That’s not too bad, though, compared to what our transgender siblings are up against. Transgender people face pervasive discrimination and violence. They are targets for the kind of reflexive rage that all of us faced back in the 80’s and 90’s, the kind where eye contact can land you in the hospital or the morgue. Transwomen of color, particularly, face outright hatred.
We need not only to come out ourselves, those of us who are able, but we need to come out as supporters of transgender folks, because we are the best equipped to understand. Just as God told the Hebrews that they had to love the stranger because they had been strangers in the land of Egypt, we must stand up for LGBTQI folks of ALL stripes because we’ve lived in that particular Egypt.
We need to be sure that no one is left behind – and most importantly, that we
are not trampling on the rights of others. When we make a catty comment about someone who comes out as bisexual, we have just made it harder for them to function in the world (lashon harah
, anyone?) When we gloss over the concerns of LGBT people of color. when we tell our national organizations that we’re only worried (and will only fundraise) about issues that concern People Like Me, we are leaving folks behind. When we refuse to recognize someone’s gender, when we inform all our acquaintances that so-and-so isn’t a “real” man or woman we are just as bad as the folks throwing Leviticus in our teeth. When we somehow have another appointment when it’s time to stand up for a queer person of color, it’s a shameful thing.
Now, in the age of Trump, we all have to have one another’s backs. Truly living up to that is another kind of coming out, isn’t it?
What does National Coming Out Day mean to you?
A note to allies: You can “come out” too, when you speak up for us. When someone makes a joke that makes gay-hatred ok, just say, “Do you know you’re talking about my friend?” Or “Stop talking about my sister.” (I’ll be your sister, if you need one for the occasion.) Or just say, “That’s not cool” when someone says or does something mean to an LGBTQI person who needs a friend. Everyone is welcome at this coming out party.