Hello! For those of you who aren’t aware, today is National Coming Out Day. I want to take some time out of my rough (even though it hasn’t been that bad of a day) day to express my thoughts on today.
Today can mean a lot to different people. I’m sure for some it’s irrelevant or inconsequential. It is simply another rainy Wednesday. For a large group of people, however, today means a great more than being two days closer to the weekend. National Coming Out Day celebrates people who have come out as homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, etc. It celebrates the current rights this community has gained over recent years, but it still acknowledges how far we have yet to go for completely equal rights to straight people. For more information on how this day began, please visit this great article someone shared on Facebook. It’s extremely informative, even though it’s 3 years old. http://guardianlv.com/2014/10/national-coming-out-day-smiles-and-tears/
The fact we can openly celebrate a day like today is a good demonstration of how far we have come as a society in accepting there are other ways of life than the normal heterosexual lifestyle. As a society, we have seemed to have stepped backwards in that respect compared to our ancestors in classical history who were more open to non-heterosexual relationships. As of today (and I hope it remains so while Trump is sadly still in office) we have gained the rights to marriage, but discrimination hasn’t been wiped out. Same sex couples experience trouble in adopting sometimes because society is still holding onto the belief that a child needs a mother and a father in their life to be raised correctly. However, this isn’t the case, and denying a couple to adopt a child who would be otherwise forced into foster homes and group homes is senseless and ridiculous.
On top of discrimination, many people who have already come out are often bullied and isolated from their peers and family. They get called names, are threatened with physical abuse, and can lose the support from family and friends. I remember recently that three people were charged with assault on a I think was a gay man in Philadelphia over the last couple of years. Social media has taken bullying a step further by allowing someone to bully someone who is different online without taking responsibility for their actions and doing it online creates a boundary away from their victim so it is what I would call less personal than bullying in person. People are quick to post something online about another person without thinking of the consequences. This leads to emotional trauma and abuse, and sometimes leads to drastic measures such as suicide. When people are bullied for being who they are, some people isolate themselves from others or are forced into isolation because they took the time to share an intimate part about themselves to family and friends, but were rejected.
A lot of this comes from people who either don’t understand, or are too close-minded to believe that people out there can be different than them. Let’s face it. As humans, we have a tendency of separating ourselves from those who are different from us. We fought a whole war about this, America. Remember the Civil War? People are quick to assume there is something wrong with someone when they aren’t following the norm. My favorite part is when someone uses their religion to determine what other people should do. I was baptized as a child, but I never got into religion. My philosophy growing up was if there was a god, why would he allow bad things to happen? Why wouldn’t he protect me from the bad things? I suppose I learned cynicism from an early age, but as an adult I can respect and be open to people’s religions. However, when you tell me your religion forbids me to marry who I choose, when it’s not going to hurt you in any way, then I’m going to scoff at you and walk away.
People focus so much on hating other people who aren’t like them that they don’t stop to understand life through that person’s perspective. I know I mentioned this in a previous post, but let me talk about this again….
I came across a cousin of mine on Facebook, who lives in Missouri where I grew up. He was posting horrendous things against transgender individuals. Another cousin chimed in as well as my aunt. It was a huge mess about how transgender people don’t deserve rights, nor should they be allowed to change the body given to them. It went on and on. By the time I grew fed up, I was truly embarrassed of what my family is like. I was also very upset because while they condemned transgender people, they were also condemning me as a non-heterosexual woman. While my male cousin believed he shouldn’t have to stand living around people like that and looking at them, my female cousin simply used dirty, horrible language to describe everyone under the LGBTQ label. After trying to talk sense into them, I finally gave up. The language my female cousin used was too much for me. I had to remove both of them from Facebook.
That was the first real shock I got as a non-heterosexual. I have only officially came out once before today, I believe it was through one of my blog posts. Up until that time, I just let people assume what they wanted. I considered myself bisexual… that is until I took a Women in Literature course and learned of so many different labels that exist. For example, there is a label called a bambi lesbian. It’s crazy how many labels we dish out as a society. Now, all I say is I’m definitely not straight. Anyways, hearing my family attack a group of people like that shocked me. I’m used to all of my family being slightly racist and rude about people who aren’t like them. I’m pretty certain I’m the only one in my family who accepts anyone for who they are and doesn’t discriminate. But hearing my family go on about something like that genuinely hurt me. I was so upset by the concept my own family would condemn me that I reached out to my aunt, asking her if she was really including bisexuals into that discuss. She said it does, and I’ll admit I sat in the library crying. It was my first real rejection from my family I had ever experienced, aside from being the only one in my family who is anti-Trump.
Since starting college seven years ago, I was exposed to different lifestyles and people than I grew up with. I was pretty sheltered growing up in a small town in Southeast Missouri. It was an almost all-white community, many who were farmers. I knew my mother’s opinion on non-heterosexual people. She was uncomfortable around them, and I’ll never forget how she reacted when I was speaking to another woman who I had trusted at the time to answer some of my more curious questions. I was 18, but I was still coming to grips with who I really was. Mom took away my phone, banned my internet usage, and pretty much told me I’m going to be straight. I had no reason to be curious in her eyes. It was only after her death that I was able to come to terms with who I was. Now that I’m 25 and more sure with myself, I would have liked the chance to sit my mother down and talk to her about this. I was lucky that the stereotypes my family pushed on me, their values and beliefs, and their close-minded opinions didn’t affect me. I was able to let them go, be open-minded, and learn more about myself than I ever believed.
Even in college, however, close-minded people still exist. During my first semester back as a student in college last Winter, I took a sociology class on gender and social life. The class was great, and it opened me to different perspectives I had never thought about. The professor, who I believe was the adviser for the campus LGBTQ organization, was very supportive. I could tell with how she approached the sometimes sensitive topics. We did a lesson that focused on different types of sexuality that exist. Of course, we began discussing transgenders during the same time of the North Carolina bathroom restrictions. For the class, we were required to choose a section to read and present questions to the class for discussion. Obviously, the bathroom topic for transgenders came up in class. The majority of the class wasn’t open to the idea of sharing a bathroom with a transgender. I’m sure the debate still goes on today, but I simply sat in my desk shaking my head as I watched this discussion continue. Eventually, the professor had to shut down some of the conversation.
I mentioned once before that my sexuality has never been a part of my true identity. I’m not ashamed to say I find some women attractive. I’ve had a lot of people ask me why I haven’t dated any guys recently, but I live in a college town. The guys here are only concerned about partying, drinking, and sex. They are immature for their age, and I’m looking for something more serious. At 25, I’m told by many, many people, I’m more mature for my age than others. It’s been like that growing up because of my life experiences. While I may not be ashamed to share that part of myself with others, it also isn’t the number one thing on my list on how I describe myself. It doesn’t even make the top five things on my list. It’s just a part of who I am that I’ve accepted, but I haven’t let run my life.
I had a lot of people laugh at me over the summer when the town down the mountain from me had a Pride day. Even though I was battling social anxiety during that time, it felt important for me to attend at least 30 minutes of the day. So, I drove down there. I walked around before sitting and enjoying some of the music. However, I felt absolutely out of place. I didn’t feel like I fit in. I’m not that out going of a person. I’m shy when you try to talk to me, I’m not spontaneous, and I’m not as open as I felt the people I saw there were. I felt out of place there, which some people I shared that with didn’t understand. After much thinking about it, I think it was uncomfortable for me because my sexuality isn’t such an integral part of my identity. I’m just me, and if I happen to like a guy or girl, then that’s not important.
Hearing what today was this morning allowed me to sit at work and think when we got slow. I couldn’t help, but feel grateful for my own experience in life. I also can’t help feeling luckier than some who didn’t have the support I have. I had to find my own support from friends and surprisingly enough through professors. They supported me every step of the way, whether it was because of struggles I was going through, or finding myself in an abusive relationship with another woman. It was easier to accept that part of myself when others didn’t tear me down for being that way. I can openly express who I crush on, whether it’s a female celebrity, another coworker, or the sister-in-law to one of my professors. I can do this without being judged or condemned.
I wish I could say my family was a part of this support group. I have a small family. I have some left in Missouri, I have an aunt in South Carolina, and I have another aunt I gained through my step-father (which was probably the only useful thing he’s done for me). My family in Missouri are pretty vocal in their families. My aunt in South Carolina is getting better. My aunt here was very supportive when things weren’t going so well with my ex. What hurts the most, however, is my brother. He prefers not to see or hear about it at all. He’s under the belief that non-straight people should keep their personal life out of public view. Straight people can hold hands or kiss in public, but the rest of us shouldn’t. I can’t joke about an actress I found cute around him, and I have caught him a number of occasions talking very rudely about me in that way. That’s the hardest thing for me, considering now that our mother is gone he’s really all I have left.
I have to be grateful, despite this, that my journey to acceptance was easier than others. I’ve heard stories of people getting banished from their families. I seen the bullying people do online. My heart has ached when someone commits suicide because they weren’t accepted themselves. I have to be grateful for my support and for how open I am with myself. I’ve come to know a lot more about myself in the past couple of years than I have known my entire life.
As the day continues today, and I urge you to continue this every day, support those who are struggling to come out. Support those who are simply different than you. Support your family, friends, and peers when you see them struggling for acceptance of themselves. Offer a shoulder to lean on if they need to talk. Work to stop bullying and discrimination against those in the LGBTQ community.
For those who have come out, I commend your bravery. It takes courage to announce to the world, or even to a small group of family or friends, who you are. It takes courage to accept that and live your life happily, rather than being afraid to follow your dreams. It took me years to officially come out without allowing people assume what they want about me. I still mentally pat myself on the back for not being afraid of what other people think, because all of us face that at some time in our life. I grew up getting bullied, so I was traumatized into believing in what other people thought about it.
For those of you struggling to come out, take your time to accept who you are, but don’t waste your life away hiding yourself from yourself and others. Create a group around you who will support you no matter what, and who will help guard you from the bullies in the world who would rather tear you down. You don’t have to wear rainbows all the time or fit into those neat, little stereotypes society as created for different types of sexuality. You just need to be yourself and do what is comfortable for you.
Today is one day set aside out of 360 days for us to celebrate the accomplishments of the LGBTQ community gaining rights in society. It celebrates the strength of those to come out and be open about themselves. Let’s not forget we still have a ton of work to do so members of the LGBTQ community can walk freely in the streets without fearing for their lives, can gain equal access to everything without discrimination, and so much more. Be open-minded about the different people in the world. Don’t judge without stopping to know someone’s life experience. Even then, just listen.
As a geek, I have to end on this note. J.K Rowling taught us no one should live in the closet.