Is It Safe to Come Out?
Wednesday, October 11th is National Coming Out Day. Since 1988, it has traditionally been a time when so many members of the LGBTQ+ community first make the decision to be truly visible. Here we are 29 years later. You would think that the world would have evolved to the point where someone coming out wouldn’t be such a dangerous proposition, but in light of recent events and our current political climate, everything has come into question for LGBTQ+ people who are thinking of being visible. It is even more dangerous for a person who is transgender.
After years of progress, our community is now faced with transgender military bans. We have the Attorney General of the United States Jeff Sessions issuing guidance removing transgender protections from the Civil Rights Act. We live in a polarized political climate where transgender people are being used as a way to divide our country and drive people to the polls. We have become a society filled with anger and contempt for each other. The news and social media are filled with hateful arguments as people draw lines and take sides. Even our own community seems to be at each other’s throats these days. It is truly depressing to witness. With each passing day, it seems as though it is getting harder to simply exist. Now, as Coming Out Day approaches, it makes you wonder, is it safe to come out?
“IT CERTAINLY FEELS LIKE THE DARK AGES, AND WE ARE ONLY IN THE FIRST YEAR.”
If you are someone who supports a family, do you run the risk of losing your job when a company may now be within its legal rights to fire you for being transgender? It is hard enough having to wonder which family members or friends may turn their backs on you. Is it okay to go into a store when the clerk has a right to discriminate against you because of their religion? That is what you have with Mississippi’s Religious Liberty Accommodations Act, which is now law. It is as though the clock on civil rights has been turned back about 50 years. It certainly feels like the dark ages, and we are only in the first year.
It is hard to rationalize the fact that you have a group of people who are hell-bent on erasing our community. You get slanted news stories designed to confuse those who do not understand us and frighten them. These new laws are intended to scare us back into the closets. They want you to be afraid to come out. They want to confuse the public. Fear is a big motivator, and the anger we see is the result of those fears. Though this is the reality we are dealing with, we still have the power to change these perceptions, and that can only happen if we come out. We can’t sit around waiting for someone to rescue us. We must rescue ourselves and do everything we can to change the perceptions within our immediate circles. We need to be the living and breathing contradictions to all the misinformation and the misconceptions that are going around.
But back to the main question, is it safe to come out? I am not sure if it ever really was. The real question should be do we need to, and to that I say yes we absolutely do. It is a dangerous thing to say when we are all walking around with a big target on our backs, I am aware of that, but how does society change if we won’t allow ourselves to exist?
“YOU WILL ROLL THE DICE WITH EVERYONE YOU KNOW, AND YOU FIND OUT WHO THEY REALLY ARE AS YOU TELL THEM WHO YOU REALLY ARE.”
I can only tell you if you are thinking of coming out to anyone, always make sure that you do so in an environment where you are free from the possibility physical harm. You will roll the dice with everyone you know, and you find out who they really are as you tell them who you really are. There will be losses. There will be those who understand you and there will certainly be those who don’t but are willing to understand. You will have those who will never understand, and some who will pretend it just didn’t happen. What is going on in the world around us just makes it more difficult.
The important thing is that we are visible. The world will never change if we don’t come out. The only thing that can overcome all the misinformation and the hateful rhetoric is the actual experience of knowing us. No law or slanted news article can change a person’s understanding of you more than the experience of them actually knowing you. Only then will people want the laws to change. Only then will they dismiss the hateful rhetoric. It may not be safe to come out. It is not safe to be transgender regardless. This is a risk we simply all take by being who we are. All I do know is that nothing will ever change if we continue to hide. At some point, we have to stand up and be visible. It is more important now than ever before.
Stay safe and keep fighting for all of us!
Love and peace,