Coming out is about the scariest thing a teen—or anyone, for that matter—might have to do. Today, October 11, is National Coming Out Day. Celebrated in countries around the world1, National Coming Out Day is a day to both encourage closeted individuals to come out, and to raise issues around coming out — specifically the fact that a day of such nature need exist.
Differentiation is the new vogue. Urban Dictionary defines Hipsters as
a subculture of men and women typically in their 20’s and 30’s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter.
The New Oxford American Dictionary says a Hipster is
A person who follows the latest trends and fashions, especially those regarded as being outside the cultural mainstream.
Yet everyone, everywhere, will tell you that to stand out is to subject yourself to negative effects of differentiation; to be isolated. Don’t get me wrong, I live in one of the best LGBTQ2 cities in the world—it’s no San Francisco, but it’s pretty damn good. Though, this beautiful city of Sydney is situated in Australia, a country who’s social recognition and LGBT rights leaves a lot to be desired.
The term Hipster is “often used as a pejorative to describe someone who is pretentious, overly trendy or effete.” Alex Rayner for The Guardian (Oct 2010) “if there’s one thing more fashionable than being a hipster, it’s laughing at hipsters”.
Why do people hate Hipsters? It’s not because it stems from a counterculture of people wishing to break away from the early 2000’s obsession with “reality television, dance music, and locating the whereabouts of Britney Spears’s underpants”, but rather that Hipsters wanted to be “recognised as being different and [a] counterculture, but ultimately form[ed] this weird subculture where everyone in it is doing the exact same thing and causing it to become mainstream” (ohyouknowhangingout on Reddit).
And that brings me back around to differentiation and isolation. No one should hate a person or a culture, and yet hate of people and cultures occurs everyday. True homophobia3 is pretty non-prevalent in our society today. Those who voice truly disgusting hate towards members and allies of the LGBT community are usually shunned — which is great. But these people are not those we need to educate, it’s the ignorant, those who know no better.
Elizabeth (Maryland), “My freshman year, only once did a teacher ever stop someone saying, ‘That’s so gay!’” she recalls. “No one ever stopped the kids.” Elizabeth’s story is all too common, it’s not that these kids hate LGBT people, it’s that they’re unaware of the affect of their words; ignorance.
A severe level of ignorance was seen on this week’s Q&A with regard to the comments between Bob Katter and Josh Thomas. Trinette Stevens asked:
Bob Katter, the youth in this area that belong to minority groups, in particular homosexuals, face a much higher rate of suicide. You have said in the past that you will not address the topic of gay rights as you see it as ‘irrelevant’. Do you think it is appropriate for us to have a discussion about the links between regional Australia and suicide, and willingly omit an entire group of at risk individuals?
Katter may be a lost hope, but there are many more people out there who are not. Those who have just never seen a reason to question their actions and their words. While having an LGBT sister hasn’t helped PM Tony Abbot’s stance on related issues, knowing someone who either is LGBT or is an ally can really help people out of this ignorance.
Today is the best time in the history of Earth to associate as LGBT. According to the Pew Research Center 92% of LGBT Amercians “say society has become more accepting of them in the past decade and an equal number expect it to grow even more accepting in the decade ahead.” This is great, society is advancing and becoming more accepting. However, six-in-ten (58%) say they’ve been the target of slurs or jokes.
The research conducted by Pew is an excellent read. Should you chose not to read it, I will highlight this section below: (emphasis my own)
The survey finds that the LGBT population is distinctive in many ways beyond sexual orientation. Compared with the general public, Pew Research LGBT survey respondents are more liberal, more Democratic, less religious, less happy with their lives, and more satisfied with the general direction of the country. On average, they are younger than the general public. Their family incomes are lower, which may be related to their relative youth and the smaller size of their households. They are also more likely to perceive discrimination not just against themselves but also against other groups with a legacy of discrimination.
Why is coming out so important? Because we need to show people that LGBT individuals and allies are everywhere. We need to take away the Katters-of-the-world’s excuses that LGBT issues are irrelevant to them on account of knowing no LGBT people.
The more people who are ‘out’4 the easier it will be for LGBT kids of future generations to come out. Pew shows that the median age that LGBT adults realise they might be something other than heterosexual or straight is twelve years-old. What were you doing when you were twelve? For the majority of people it sure as hell wasn’t having a full-on gender or sexual orientation identity crisis. Thus, making the world an easier place to come out in is a must, we can remove the fear of coming out for all those twelve year olds5, and leave them just to worry about who they like.
In most people’s lives their families are the most important people to them. Yet, Pew shows that
just 56% say they have told their mother about their sexual orientation or gender identity, and 39% have told their father. Most who did tell a parent say that it was difficult, but relatively few say that it damaged their relationship.
If coming out is about the scariest thing a teen—or anyone, for that matter—might have to do, then coming out to your parents is about the scariest thing someone in the process of coming out has to do.
We live in a society where LGBT issues are in the news all the time, and many countries (though unfortunately not Australia) are improving their laws around LGBT rights. Laws, however, are far behind the populous. Randall Munroe for XKCD:
People often say that same-sex marriage now is like interracial marriage in the 60s. But in terms of public opinion, same-sex marriage now is like interracial marriage in the 90s, when it had already been legal nationwide for 30 years.
The governments of world will not change the status-quo, will not allow for marriage equality unless the people of the nation demand it. When people know someone who is LGBT, they are far more likely to support equality under the law. That is why National Coming Out Day is so important. Today is about showing support for LGBT individuals, whether they are your best friend, your sister, your cousin, or just someone on TV.
There is no better time to come out than now. Having said that, don’t rush into anything if you don’t feel the time is right—everyone’s circumstances are unique. Coming out is the most scary thing you’ll do, yet the euphoria and freedom that ensues is all worth it.
And for those who don’t associate as LGBT, this National Coming Out Day 2014, show your support of LGBT people. Come out as an ally, whether as a Facebook status, or by raising issues at the dinner table, or just telling an LGBT friend of yours that you’re here for them. Show your support.
Coming out as LGBT or as a straight ally for equality takes bravery, show your bravery and stand up for those whom without your help may continue to live isolated lives. Curbing the ignorance, stopping the hate, changing the laws, and improving society; will all take time, but it has to start somewhere. And that somewhere is now, October 11, 2014. Every person who speaks up changes more hearts and minds, and creates new advocates for equality.
Whether your coming out for the first time, or just the first time today, I’m proud of you.
If you need someone to talk to drop me line through any medium you can find. Otherwise check out the helpful resources at Reach Out Australia.
You can follow me on Twitter @_patmurray
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