Chris, St Mungo’s LGBTQIA+ Diversity Network Co-ordinator shares his thoughts on why National Coming Out Day still matters in 2022.
“Happily bouncing on a trampoline with my best friend, 10 year old me decided to share something which had been playing through my mind for a while. A scary and confusing puzzle which I needed help figuring out. I knew I was stepping into dark and taboo waters by discussing it, but I trusted my friend to help me with this perplexing puzzle. “Elli, I like looking at men and I don’t know what that means” I mutter, immediately regretting revealing the puzzle to her. She asked what I meant but I quickly dismissed it, saying I was only joking and to forget about it. 10 year old me was not ready yet, so I shelved the puzzle and locked it away.
Fast forward four years, after much time surfing the internet, which gave me loads of supportive material and the opportunity to meet people who also had the same puzzle, I finally decided to solve it. I stormed into school, approached my friend shaking and excited blurting out: “I’m pretty sure I’m gay.” I was smiling, I felt relief, and I felt nervous. They immediately screamed and hugged me, also sharing they were bi and welcoming me to the club. “This is fantastic,” I thought. “I feel amazing! I want to tell someone else”. By the end of the day I had told nearly everyone I was close to, and the puzzle had finally been solved. It’s been over a decade now where I’ve lived my truest self.
I came out early in my teen years, and at the time it was quite rare for someone to come out so young (I was ironically coined the “Gay Lord” by other closeted gays in my school year because of it). Thanks to the support I found online, it allowed me to find the courage to reveal my sexuality in a heteronormative society. That’s why National Coming Out Day is so important: Support.
National Coming Out Day was established in 1988 by American activists Robert Eichberg and Jean O’Leary. They didn’t want to respond to anti-LGBTQIA+ opinions and views with defensiveness and negativity, so instead they chose to promote positivity and support by creating the day which helped thousands be their authentic selves. The purpose of the day is not to pressure people into coming out, or to shame those who haven’t. The day is there to promote support, awareness, celebrations and the beauty of being your true self.
Being in the closet is a scary and lonely experience, where the thought of coming out brings anxiety that you’ll be rejected by everyone. The day is important for allowing those individuals who feel locked away to access support and find the courage to be their true self. While coming out can be daunting and scary, it can also be the first time that LGBTQ+ individuals are able to be truly open with the people closest to them.
National Coming Out Day is also important not just for those in the LGBTQIA+ community, but also for those who are cisgender and/or heterosexual. It promotes and raises awareness to those not in the community and gives them the opportunity to support those who are coming out.
Is coming out still necessary? Some might say the world is a much more accepting place nowadays. Although it’s somewhat true that society is becoming more accepting, it is far from perfect. ‘Coming Out’ also isn’t just for homosexual cis men like me who have fortunately had a somewhat easy experience. It includes everyone else under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella, large sections of which are still not as widely accepted. Each experience is unique and subjective and all are celebrated under National Coming Out Day.
At St Mungo’s we are fortunate to have the LGBTQIA+ Diversity Network and many other services to offer support for those who need it. It allows us to create a community of acceptance and belonging within the workplace, which is exactly what National Coming Out Day encourages and promotes. This is why the LGBTQIA+ Diversity Network are hosting a “Human Library” of coming out stories on 11 October 2022, to mark and celebrate the day. By sharing our stories it can help strengthen our belonging in the workplace whilst also giving the opportunity to inspire those who potentially need it.”