Today was National Coming Out Day, a day when lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and straight allies come proudly together to support each other. Tonight, I go to bed with a happy, grateful heart. Many years ago my beloved cousin, a boy who had been my playmate and friend, came out to me. I was the only one in the family he told and I kept his secret, wishing it were different for him, until the day he took his own life. His story, his whole life, had been a sad one. Difficult, complicated and too lonely. He didn't commit suicide because of his sexuality or because of negative responses to his sexuality from those around him, though some, tragically, do. But his loneliness was no doubt increased by his secret and when there is nobody to call, people can make terrible, irreversible decisions.
Today my 7th grade son's school participated in National Coming Out Day. They hung rainbow flags and taped up pictures and stories about kids who had come out - positive, affirming stories. The kids had an opportunity to share, talk, ask questions and, if they chose, to wear stickers in support of coming out, in support of LGBT friends and kids who might become friends. My 13 year old came in the door after his football game around 6 this afternoon. He took off his jersey and showed me the stickers he had worn on his t-shirt all day: "GSA is great," one said. The other, "Express yourself." Amazing.
My son is straight, as far as I know (he's pretty into girls.) Still, he's only 13. Who knows what he might discover about himself? How wonderful to be able to go to school in such a safe environment. How wonderful to live in a world growing more open, more loving by the day. Of course I see the fear and the folks in its grasp having their last, loud stand. But their days are numbered, and they know it, which is probably why they are screaming.
Tonight I'm thinking about my cousin John. I wish he had lived to see National Coming Out Day and all the better days that are coming. And I wish for all kids the safety and security of a home and a school where they are loved and supported for being exactly as they are. Today was National Coming Out Day but every day is our opportunity to move from fear into acceptance, from ignorance into grace. For information on National Coming Out Day and links to a supportive community working on LGBT issues, you will find the Human Rights Campaign website here.