I told my parents I was gay during the summer between junior and senior year in college.
I am not proud of the fact that I came out to them while they were already in bed, thinking that they would be too tired to confront me. While my mother’s initial instinct was to clip articles on the Catholic Church’s stance for me to read, she and my father eventually came around.
I am one of the fortunate ones. Even in 2021, stories still abound of parents disowning children who had the courage to let their true selves be known.
Coming out is an intensely personal process. No one should be pushed out of the closet before they are truly ready. I am astounded, in the best way possible, by the number of high schoolers coming out — and on social media no less. It’s a far cry from my middle-aged generation, when the stakes seemed insurmountable and there were hardly any resources available to guide us through. Some are still not able to take the leap. They too deserve our support.
This week, the country will celebrate National Coming Out Day, a marker that began on Oct. 11, 1988, inspired by the first March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, which took place with 500,000 strong on Oct. 11, 1979. National Coming Out Day is meant to celebrate the milestone of every LGBTQ individual who accepts their own sexuality and is willing to live an authentic self openly. The motivation behind the celebration is pure and kind, but I wonder whether we need a dedicated day for it.
Early on, many members of the LGBTQ community chose National Coming Out Day as an occasion to do just that, in part to raise awareness because, in the words of one of the event’s activist authors, Robert Eichberg, “most people think they don’t know anyone gay or lesbian, and in fact, everybody does. It is imperative that we come out and let people know who we are and disabuse them of their fears and stereotypes.”
With greater acceptance over time, National Coming Out Day participants now don pride symbols like rainbow flags and pink triangles and make an effort to come out to even more people including coworkers. A Pew Research Center study found that in the United States, 72% today say homosexuality should be accepted, a sharp increase from 46% in 1994 and 51% in 2002.
But in 2021, I think we, as a country, need to make every day National Coming Out Day. There’s never a wrong time to tell your truth. Whether it happens Oct. 11, Oct. 12, or any day of the year, it is still cause for celebration. I am convinced someone in the world is coming out each and every day. And that love and acceptance is received in return.
Moreover, coming out should not be seen as an event for the LGBTQ community alone. It’s for allies to do so as well. Their support combats ignorance that can cause harm. Allies enable more of us to come out because their words and actions foster acceptance, equality, fairness, and mutual respect. And we must applaud them for standing up.
National Coming Out Day deserves to be more than a niche observance. Regardless of one’s attitudes toward the LGBTQ community or how we in it choose to represent ourselves, its existence compels us all to acknowledge the humanity it represents. As well as the ongoing struggle for equality. And we can only hope that one day it will be but a distant memory.
But for now, all are encouraged to come out, come out wherever you are.
Jobert E. Abueva’s journey as a gay writer and resident of New Hope will premiere on Oct. 21 on YouTube as part of the New Hope Celebrates Artists & Authors speaker series: www.newhopecelebrateshistory.org.