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Coming Out Together

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One way the homosexual community will know it is approaching full equality is when a significant date in lesbian and gay history is recognized as a national holiday. June 28 is the most likely candidate since it was on that date in 1969 that the Stonewall Riots kicked off the modern Gay Liberation Movement. But October 11, the date designated as National Coming Out Day by the Human Rights Campaign is my choice.

National Coming Out Day is designed to encourage gays and lesbians to break free of the closet and openly acknowledge their sexual orientation. The HRC chose October 11 in honor of the 1987 march on Washington in support of gay rights that also marked the first public display of the quilt displaying the names of AIDS victims.

You can come out any day of the year but on National Coming Out Day you know you're not taking this bold step alone.

Heterosexuals unsympathetic to our cause may think a day for coming out is unnecessary. The popularity of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and the much publicized arguments, pro and con, concerning gay marriage has them convinced that every closet door is not only open but has been ripped from its hinges.

Since those who are closeted admit nothing, it's impossible to know what percentage of the population is still harboring secrets about their sexual orientation, but the fact that most of the coming out stories posted at the HRC website carry no last names suggests the closet is still the most crowded room in the house.

Coming out isn't easy and it never really ends. Except for flamboyant queens and butch dykes, we are always assumed to be heterosexual until we say otherwise. We must choose to either cooperate with the assumption or destroy it by saying "I am gay."

What are the risks? Staying in the closet seems to pose no risk at all. What have you got to lose by pretending to be straight?

Everything. Sure, you're less likely to be ridiculed, harassed or to lose your job but you'll surely lose your self-respect. Besides, unless you're a superb actor, you're not likely to fool anyone for long. If you don't tell people you're gay, they're sure to suspect it at some point and share their suspicion with others. You'll be the only one who isn't discussing your sexuality. Most of the talk will be in whispers and punctuated with giggles and raised eyebrows. And the longer you deny or hide your homosexuality, the longer you give people something worth whispering about. When we're ashamed of our sexual orientation, we are agreeing with our oppressors that homosexuality is shameful.

The bottom line is that by being closeted we are unwittingly agreeing with those who are against us.

Being openly gay is a challenge but the rewards are great. By coming out you are making the decision to claim your right to a full, happy and rewarding life. Acknowledging your homosexuality freely and without fear takes practice but in time it will be as natural as breathing. Closets get stuffy, so by opening that door you'll also breathe a lot easier. After those first few timid steps, you'll walk with a confidence you never felt before.

You may face hostility but you'll also win allies, gay and straight alike, who'll provide you with moral support. Your example will also encourage others to come out and only by being out can we make progress in our quest for equality.

Your dating life is also sure to improve. Unless you openly acknowledge that you're gay, how will other homosexuals who find you attractive know it's safe to ask you for a date? Even if they suspect you're a closet queen, they may shy away from making an approach if they think you're too uptight to come clean about your sexual desires. And if the cute hunk you've been having fantasies about is also in the closet, how likely is it that you'll ever find the nerve to ask him for a date?

So come out already. On October 11, let everyone know you're gay. If you're already out, come out again and again and again until there's no one left to come out to. Make it a point to come out as often and as fully as you can. You'll be glad you did.

by Brian W. Fairbanks

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