Chatting while slicing a frozen pizza, sharing over the phone with an out-of-town loved one, catching up at lunch with a longtime friend, mentioning a relationship in passing to a colleague – The coming out conversations I have experienced have a spanned a multitude of locations and lengths. They have been both intentional and direct, as well as incidental and off the cuff. While the settings, tone and conversation partners have shapeshifted over time, the theme that remains grounded in truth – other than being queer – is that coming out is a continuous process and a continuous choice. Rather than a singular, static event, it occurs in waves throughout the years, undergoing changes in style and certainty. It is a specific decision to live openly, unceasing and ever evolving, but always brave and always bold.
October 11 marks National Coming Out Day, an annual event celebrating LGBTQ+ individuals openly embracing themselves, while also honoring those who are still taking steps to understand who they are. Landing in the middle of LGBTQ+ History Month, National Coming Out Day began in 1988 on the anniversary of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, which occurred in 1987. Now in its 34th year, the awareness day also shines a light on how the acceptance of coming out has changed throughout the years, as well as the cracks of intolerance that still spread throughout our communities.
As a cruel juxtaposition, not 24 hours after National Coming Out Day, our own Ohio State School Board will be voting on a damaging resolution that aims to make our schools less of a safe place to actually come out in. If passed, the resolution would threaten the wellbeing of LGBTQ+ youth within our state by putting federal Title IX protections in schools for LGBTQ+ young people at risk. The proposed changes include requests for lawmakers pass hurtful legislation, such as banning trans girls from playing on female sports teams, as well as requiring schools to notify parents if students are exploring their gender identity or utilizing alternative names or pronouns.
Per the Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, LGBTQ+ youth are more likely to attempt suicide than their peers. Not only that, but also less than 1 in 3 transgender and nonbinary youth believed their home to be a gender-affirming space. Detrimental efforts like the aforementioned resolution only heighten these statistics, as they contribute to a space in which queer young people are told to hide, to be ashamed, and to not come out. And while the support and encouragement of others is vital for any queer person’s journey, the most pivotal coming out moment is the acceptance and unwavering love of oneself. With the proposed resolution, that moment is threatened. Not only that, but the power and personal choice of coming out and sharing a vulnerable part of oneself is slowly stripped away.
In honor of National Coming Out Day, consider sending a message to the Ohio State School Board members urging them to reject this resolution during their vote on October 12. While the process of coming out never truly ends, it most certainly should not be thrust into the hands of lawmakers or school officials, nor should it instill fear or shame within LGBTQ+ young people.
Whether you have been out for what feels like forever, are just beginning to accept yourself or are somewhere in the middle, National Coming Out Day is for you. It is your journey on your time, and it is valid exactly as it is.