Monday, October 11, 2010 is National Coming Out Day (NCOD). From Wikipedia:
National Coming Out Day is an internationally-observed civil awareness day for coming out and discussion about gay, lesbian,bisexual, asexual and transgender (LGBT) issues. It is observed by members of the LGBT communities and their supporters (often referred to as “allies”) on October 11 every year.
Coincidentally, it happens one day before the 12 anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard. If you don’t know who Matthew Shepard is, I encourage you to click the previous link and find out.
The death of Matthew was a turning point for my generation’s fight for equal rights for LGBT Americans. This one incident is also the convergence point that introduced two other public figures: Rev. Fred Phelps and his traveling American Taliban, and Romaine Patterson, young lesbian and friend of Matthew that came up with a creative solution to silencing Phelps and his gang.
As NCOD approaches, I have to admit that I’m not as “out” as I should be, and neither are millions of LGBT Americans. However, I it is not just LGBT Americans that need to come out, it is our straight allies as well. There are far more straight allies in this country than their are LGBT people.
If you only told one person that you support equality for LGBT people, you would be making a difference. Imagine, if every ally told one person that they supported LGBT equality and were able to change one mind or to convince one person that was sitting on the fence to get involved. Our number of allies would double instantly. If those same people carried the torch to another person, our number of allies will have quadrupled.
Changing the world. One person at a time.
Want to know how to come out as a straight ally? PFLAG’s Straight for Equality has some great advice.
Being a straight ally doesn’t just mean telling your friends at work that you support gay and transgender people. It also means opening your mouth in protest when someone at work disparages LGBT people for hate’s sake. It means doing the same when you are in Sunday school and someone insists that your gay friend is going to burn in hell and needs help with his soul. It means letting your family know that you don’t appreciate the gay jokes.
When a straight ally comes out, they may experience similar apprehension and fear that an LGBT person would feel. A straight ally also risks job status, social status, and friendship loss.
A former governor of mine, presidential candidate, and member of my parent’s church, Mike Huckabee once said describing why gays haven’t yet earned their civil rights, “…here is the difference. Bull Connor was hosing people down in the streets of Alabama. John Lewis got his skull cracked on the Selma bridge.”
Here was my challenge to Mike: I’ll bet I could round up 100 volunteers that would allow themselves to have their skulls cracked if it meant the rest of our people would finally be equal. I just can’t get that guarantee, but that’s the price I would be willing to pay.
My point is that everyone has something they don’t want to lose, but what a great gift you would give to give that thing you fear to lose for the price of someone else’s freedom and equality.