Not everyone can come out safely.
On the surface, National Coming Out Day seems like a warm and welcoming idea. Today is the 28th anniversary of the event, which encourages LGBT+ people and their allies to come out and speak about their experiences in a supportive environment. “Every person who speaks up changes more hearts and minds, and creates new advocates for equality,” writes the Human Rights Campaign.
However, the day has been getting some backlash, both from people who say it flattens a difficult and nuanced experience, and from those for whom it’s not safe to come out.
LGBT people are more likely to be the targets of hate crimes, but that risk varies within the LGBT umbrella. Transgender women of color are the most likely to be attacked. In 2016, 22 transgender people have been murdered, one more than the total of 2015. And studies show bisexual people are less likely to come out to family than gay people, and are more likely to experience mental health difficulties.
Because of those threats of violence and non-acceptance, many people are judicious in choosing when to come out, and who to come out to. And others are speaking out about how National Coming Out Day pressures people to come out, encourages others to out people against their wishes, and centers on the experiences of those for whom coming out is easy.
Of course, plenty of others are enthusiastic about National Coming Out Day, the idea being that this sort of visibility is exactly what will make coming out easier and more acceptable for everyone. Many are using it as an opportunity to talk about the spectrum of genders and sexualities that deserve equal attention.
So, happy National Coming Out Day, and may one day everyone stop assuming people are straight and cis until proven otherwise.
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