National Coming Out Week is a way to raise awareness, bring attention to the LGBT equal rights movement, and promote the importance of coming out of the closet if you identify with the LGBT community. The USF Queer Alliance has planned Coming Out Week activities and programs for Oct. 7 because of the timing of our Fall Break. Nonetheless, the week puts forth the idea that, although it is usually incredibly difficult to put one’s reputation on the line by coming out, the act initiates a sense of liberation and freedom that only comes with the honesty and courage of being open with one’s own sexuality.
In the past three weeks, there has been an epidemic of teen suicides as the result of extreme bullying in schools. Four teenagers, (aged 13, 13, 15, and 19) in locations as diverse as Texas, California, Indiana, and New Jersey, were driven to commit suicide because of the bullying based on what others merely speculated of their sexual orientation. Occurrences like these are unfortunately all too prevalent. Despite the supposed progress we have made for equal rights, the United States still has so much more room to improve. Coming out in supportive communities gives hope to those who are trapped in a closed-minded environment. It shows that there is more to the gay community than being relentlessly bullied and looked down upon in conservative locations. It shows that it does get better, and it doesn’t have to come down to ceasing to live. I think Harvey Milk summed it up pretty well in his speech on Gay Freedom Day in San Francisco, 1978:
“Gay brothers and sisters… You must come out. Come out… to your parents… I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives… come out to your friends… if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors… to your fellow workers… to the people who work where you eat and shop… come out only to the people you know, and who know you. Not to anyone else. But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake.”
Even in a conservative or closed-minded environment, coming out can be a very positive influence for how communities view homosexuality. If the issue is presented out in the open, people tend to make less of a spectacle about whether or not someone identifies as gay or lesbian. It eliminates speculation and the individual in question is no longer an object of rumor if they confidently adopt and accept their sexuality as a positive part of them.
Coming out is scary. It requires you to go out on a limb and reveal something about yourself that is extremely personal, while risking your community’s acceptance of you. But in the long run, it’s well worth it – coming out itself promotes equal rights and treatment. It produces awareness to the movement. It brings the fight closer to home for many. But most of all, it gives others hope. And in the words of Harvey Milk, “You’ve got to give them hope.”
Emily Turner is a freshman media studies major
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