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Come Out If You Want To

National Coming Out Day is a funny thing.

I know many people who look at it with sheer joy. A day they can celebrate their own coming out, a day where they feel everyone will love and embrace them for having the courage to admit to being different in a way that others hate, and no one can see just by looking at you. At the same time, I have some friends who take varying levels of umbrage at it, because it puts undue pressure on people already dealing with a pretty monumental thing.

I don’t think of National Coming Out Day as a day where you must come out, but as a day where we all recognize and support people who are strugling with their sexuality.

Similarly, I don’t think National Mental Health Awareness Day is a day where I have to admit that I have a mental illness, but one where I recognize that there are mental illnesses, and people deserve to know they’re not alone and that some of us care an support them.

All ‘Awareness’ type days, including the ones like ‘National Sausage Pizza Day’ are not days where you must do the thing, but one where you should recognize the thing. By the way, today is also ‘General Pulaski Day’ and it’s celebrated in Chicago (I had a coworker who brought in Polish treats to commemorate).

The point is this. All ‘days’ are days where we’re supposed to think about what they mean. What does Coming Out mean to you? Does it mean you feel proud for being out, or maybe you feel scared about what other people will think if they find out. Maybe you feel like you should go hug your friends who are those things.

This day celebrates individuals who publicly identify as bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender – coming out regarding their sexual orientation and/or gender identity being akin to a cultural rite of passage for LGBT people.

That’s what we say. Celebrate the people who came out, because it wasn’t easy for anyone, not even me who has a fantastic loving family who supported me in all things, even when I made bad choices. Coming out doesn’t have to be dramatic, it doesn’t even have to be public. You can be sitting at home right now and think “I may be gay” or “I may be transgender” or anything else on that spectrum.

The point is to think about it. Think about what you are, what that means, and celebrate those of us who have sorted it out and are living it. I came out to my family over the course of about five years. Some family members were handled better than others (sorry Mom), and some family members handled it better than others. That’s how it goes. I actually had a couple relatives who thought my wife and I were just like Laverne and Shirley. All of that is totally secondary to the real point of coming out, and that is coming to terms with who and what I am as a person.

This is a civil awareness day, not your marching orders.

So come out if you want to or not. No matter what you decide to do, you’re not alone. I’m not judging you no matter what you do.

There’s no pressure here at all. We’ve got your back, no matter what.