Days on the LGBTQ+ calendar all too often go unnoticed by the world at large. People for whom these days hold no meaning find it hard to understand the importance of and the validity that comes with the simple recognition LGBTQ+ days of remembrance and celebration provide. But in the end, perhaps that is the point of these days: To break the silence and call attention to those of us who no longer wish to live in the shadows cast by the ignorance of our existence.
And of all the days on the LGBTQ+ calendar, perhaps today, National Coming Out Day, is the one that speaks the loudest of breaking the silence.
First celebrated on October 11, 1988, National Coming Out Day is grounded in the belief that homophobia thrives in silence and ignorance, and the most basic way of combating it is for members of the LGBTQ+ community to come out and openly live their authentic lives. This in no way invalidates the fact that for many coming out is dangerous, instead it stands on the understanding those who are able to come out can make it safer for those who cannot at this time.
Breaking the silence is a powerful thing because when you are seen and heard you stop being an idea and become a reality. And it is easier for people to hate an idea than it is for them to hate a person who is sitting right beside them, a person who is living and breathing and clearly just wants to continue living.
I personally first learned about National Coming Out Day in college, right around the time I started deeply questioning my sexuality and gender. From the first moment I knew about this day, there was a part of me that wanted to stand up on an October 11 and scream, “I’m queer!” That desire hasn’t changed over the years, if anything it’s gotten stronger the more I’ve come to know myself.
Sometimes we need to come out to ourselves before we can come out to others, and that personal coming out can be a journey. My journey has been long and slow. It was somewhere in 2018 that I first started using male pronouns, to see if they fit me. Now in 2022, I recognize that I am trans, and with the help of my therapist, I’m navigating the uneasy waters of coming out to close family members. The journey has not been easy and I’m still a little ways from simply shouting, “I’m queer!” on an October 11, but I’m closer. And I’m no longer hiding from myself or others.
So on this National Coming Out Day, I’m breaking the silence. I am queer. I am gay. I am trans. And I will continue to speak so those who are still living where it is dangerous to be seen and heard can have a safer future.