Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Coming Out for Change

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By Ian Palmquist Today is National Coming Out Day, the time each year when we celebrate the act that is the single most important thing we can do as LGBT people, both for ourselves and for our equal rights movement. Coming Out, of course, is not something we do once and are done with; it is a choice we make many times every day. As a leader of an LGBT organization, it might seem like I'm as out as I can be. But I too face these choices every day. It's not just sitting down with a friend and telling them that you're L, G, B or T. It's deciding to put your arm around your date at a movie. It's telling the waiter that you're celebrating your anniversary. It's correcting the clerk when she assumes the flowers you're buying are for someone of the opposite sex. It's speaking up for yourself when someone makes a trans-phobic comment. It's treating yourself and your relationships as being no different from anyone else's. Each of us must negotiate these daily decisions for ourselves. Sometimes the culture of fear is so pervasive we don't even realize how we're limiting ourselves. And sometimes we're just too tired to stand up to this often-unintentional oppression one more time. But as you make these decisions, consider the impact it has. Each time we choose to hide, we're missing an opportunity to build public support for equality and justice. Study after study shows that knowing someone who's LGBT makes people much more likely to support equal rights. Each time you make these decisions, you have an opportunity to touch someone and make a difference. There's another step to coming out, as well. We need to not just let our friends and family know who we are, we need to really share our lives with them. And that includes the challenges we face every day because we don't have the same rights, responsibilities and protections as other Americans. We need to let them know the impact that religion-based bigotry has on our lives and the joy that our own faith brings to many of us. Our allies need to know on a personal level how important these issues are. So, I hope you'll join me today in coming out. Whether it's the first time or the ten-thousandth time, come out and know that slowly but surely you're changing the world. Ian Palmquist is the Equality NC Executive Director of Programs. Equality NC is North Carolina's leading state-wide LGBT civil rights and advocacy groups.