National Coming Out Day, held each year, celebrates coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and allies (LGBTQ). But why the need to make a big deal of coming out, right? In this era of more mainstream acceptance—same-sex marriage, gays in the military—it’s easy to lose sight of why coming out of the closet is such a big deal. After all, being gay is widely accepted now, right?
Not so fast.
For every triumph the LGBTQ people have celebrated, there has been huge opposition. On June 12 of this year, Omar Mateen opened fire and killed 49 people at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. This stunning act of violence against LGBTQ people was the largest on record and will no doubt go down as a defining tragic moment in queer history. But the deadly shooting—which did inspire great compassion and resilience among LGBTQ people and their allies—was hardly surprising. Across the country, young people are bullied by their peers for being different. They’re rejected by their families, places of worship, communities. According to the Trevor Project, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10–24, and the rate of suicide attempts by LGBTQ youth are two times greater than straight youth.
It’s important to embrace people of all ages who come out of the closet. If we continue to celebrate and cherish those around us for being brave enough to live honestly and to the fullest, maybe someday we won’t need a National Coming Out Day.
For East End LGBTQ resources, visit the Hamptons LGBT Center at 44 Union Street, Sag Harbor.