This post is intended for those of you that are gay and have not come out to the people that are important in your life.
National coming out day is not until October 11th but given the Supreme Court hearings I thought I would take this opportunity to remind everyone of some of the benefits of coming out.
Inevitably there are also a number of people that say ‘I can’t because of reason XYZ‘. Some of these people are absolutely correct and may have a lot to lose on a personal level – if someone is legitimately in that situation the best thing to do is wait until the time is right. However, most people significantly overestimate the negative consequences that they may experience by coming out.
I came out gradually to my friends and family during my freshman year in college. The only tough situation I encountered as I came out was with a close female friend that had a crush on me. She thought I invited her to dinner to formally ask her to date me. Other than that, every single person I told was supportive. The gender of who you sleep with is immaterial to those that you are important to in life.
A benefit I had in coming out was that I felt much happier since I could be ‘me’. I was no longer living a lie…and I no longer had to answer the dreaded question at family functions – “Do you have a girlfriend?”. I was able to introduce them to the guy I loved. Honesty, I think my parents like TOIL more than my other siblings or me.
Back in 2008 a sub, and friend, called me up crying. He and I already had several lengthy discussions about coming out but during the call he let me know he finally came out to his parents. Given his crying, I assumed his family did not take the news well. Luckily, his tears were due to the emotional weight being lifted from his shoulders. His sexuality did not matter to his family; they loved the son they always knew. I have to admit that I even teared up in my conversation with him and the happiness I felt for him.
Finally, another huge benefit of coming out has been changing some people’s minds about gay people and gay marriage. A number of my coworkers have gone from being apathetic on gay marriage, because they did not think it would impact them or anyone they know, to being fully in support of gay marriage. I was caught off-guard by the number of people that have made supportive comments to me as the Illinois legislature recently brought up the issue of legalizing gay marriage. I have also helped to dispel some stereotypes they have previously had of gay people.
I know by coming out that I helped to get at least a few more people in support of gay marriage – yesterday twelve of my straight coworkers wore red to work in support of marriage equality. If you have not already come out I encourage you to take some time and reflect upon the benefits and consequences it may have upon your life and come out when it is right for you. The Human Rights Campaign’s Coming Out Center is a good resource.
When a person comes out he helps to change minds and we all benefit from it.