Happy National Coming Out Day, kids!
Today, in addition to celebrating the invasion of the Americas by a profiteering scoundrel in tights and a funny hat, we celebrate the LGBT community and our struggle for acceptance and equality. Today is all about breaking barriers, rejecting judgment and bigotry, and embracing(and loving) ourselves for who we are, rather than who others would have us be. It’s also a day when allies of the LGBT community come together to speak out in loving support of their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender friends and family members. It’s a day designed to knock down walls and build bridges; a day of joy, love and shared humanity.
This year, however, the joy is tempered (as it is far too often) by sorrow. In the wake of the September Suicides, there have been numerous calls for an end to the sort of bullying and blind hate that pushes scared and lonely kids to take their own lives. There have been calls for improved outreach and education programs to help educate children and adults who work, live and play with LGBT kids.
And, to no one’s surprise, there have been calls from the bigots and the pants-on-head crazy to continue a campaign of marginalization and discrimination against LGBT people. An Assistant Attorney General of Michigan relentlessly bullied a young gay college student. Community-destroyer and LCD-panderer Wal-Mart is gearing up to sell a book that purports to “cure” homosexuality. For these lackwits, bashing others based on who they love is not only acceptable, it’s S.O.P. when currying favor with the brutish and the ignorant. They see our happiness as a threat to their own, and cannot (or will not) imagine a world where we can all peacefully pursue our lives and loves.
Forty-one years after Stonewall, and twenty-three years after the first National Coming Out Day, the LGBT community has made significant strides toward our achieving equality and acceptance. But our struggle is far from over. Consider the following statistics taken from Change.org’s Gay Rights page:
* 39% of LGBT workers report some sort of workplace harrassment based on their sexual orientation or identity.
* In THIRTY STATES, LGBT individuals can be terminated based solely on orientation/identity without legal recourse.
* THIRTY STATES, including my home state of Ohio (which comes, I belive, from the Algonquin for “Please disregard the fact that Paul Lynde was born here”) have constitutional amendments banning gay marriage.
Of course, employment and the right to the legal and social benefits of marriage are not the only issues the LGBT community has to tackle. We are frequently targeted and killed because of who we are and who we love; in fact, hate crimes against LGBT people are up TWENTY-EIGHT PERCENT since 1999, the previous high-water mark for this sort of senseless carnage. We need to take steps to reverse this trend. We need to meet the bullies and the bigots head-on and show them that we do not, and will not, permit their campaign to slander and slaughter us.
Today is, as I said, about joy. It’s about having the courage to share your real self with those you love. It’s about, in the end, integrity. And if we can continue to break barriers and build strong alliances, if we can focus on the humanity we share, rather than the differences that some would use to divide us, then I think we can look forward to a day when, perhaps, we no longer need National Coming Out Day, because LGBT people will no longer pay the ultimate price for their integrity.
When that day will come depends on us.