There’s no real point in trying to tell you now what you likely already know if this is a choice that’s on your mind, but today is National Coming Out Day. Those who make a point of coming out on NCOD likely already made the decision weeks ago, so I’m not writing to suggest you hurry up and do so in the remaining hours of this day. Though feel free if the spirit moves you.
Rather, I want to take just a minute to point out to you that the purpose of this day is not so much to say “make plans to come out on this special day” but rather to draw attention to the need to come out in general, whatever the circumstances may be in your own personal life, and to identify the act as a GOOD thing and something to be celebrated and praised. As opposed to those ill-informed people who send the message that it is an act connected to something shameful.
I recognize that for many people, the individual circumstances of their life can make coming out a very difficult, even dangerous, act. A child of abusive parents, for example, a person afraid of being alienated from their faith community, someone who knows they will be fired from their job. But with that said, I think the message of history is clear, we have an ethical responsibility to add our face and our voices to the pursuit of equality and acceptance for all trans people. Sociologists recognize that the most significant factor in advancing equality for homosexuals was not activism, but the turn in public opinion over the last decade as more and more Americans realized they knew and liked – even loved – someone who was gay or lesbian. When the cultural perception shifted from “those freaks in San Francisco” to “my wonderful neighbor Mr. Jones” or whatever.
By the same token, far too many people still have an image of trans people that ranges from “sex fetish weirdo on Jerry Springer” to “mentally ill deviant” specifically because so few of them (knowingly) know and like a person who is trans. For all the rejection that we tend to face when we come out, we also change minds just be doing so. Those changed minds are of tremedous value for the future of acceptance.
For example, since I accepted my trans condition and began to deal with it in a positive way, I’ve lost virtually all contact with my brother and his family, my dad says i am “crazy as hell” and essentially disowned me, and pretty much anyone who shares my last name but not my roof considers me a disgrace to the family. Also, my best friend of over 20 years (at the time) rejected me completely. BUT over and over again I encounter new friends who tell me I’m the first (out) trans person they ever met, and they are impressed, they are curious, they are supportive. The other side of my family, while taken aback was supportive and they learned from me that a trans person could easily be someone you love and that love is a higher value than any cultural stereotype about trans people.
These things only happen if people KNOW you are trans. Just knowing data, facts, news reports, etc, is not enough – because the fear mongers are out there telling everyone who will listen that the media and even science itself has an “agenda” to deceive them into accepting an “immoral” and “perverse” thing which is nothing but bad behavior. Pretty much the only thing that cuts through that fog of indoctrination is knowing and liking a real live trans person. You and I are the “missionaries” of a sort, even if you’re not as vocal as people like me, your very life serves as a testimony.
I hope this day provokes you to speak up.
Photo by: Edi Hargett