Today marks the 31st anniversary of National Coming Out Day. This is an opportunity to celebrate the bravery of all those who have come out as LGBTQ+ and a reminder to keep up the fight for future generations. The Network and Health Access are proud to foster a work environment where everyone has the freedom to be their authentic selves. This year we asked our LGBTQ team members to share their personal reflections on what it means to come out.
Amanda McAllister-Wallner | Director, California LGBTQ Health & Human Services Network
Coming out is not a one time act, but a choice I make every day: Do I correct the person who asked about my husband? Do I tell the Lyft driver my job title, or that I work for a nonprofit? Coming out can be a risk, or a form of emotional labor depending on the circumstance. It can also be a freeing experience, letting me know that I can be my whole self in a given situation. In a world where prejudice, discimination, and anti-LGBTQ violence still exist, coming out is a sign of trust.
Dannie Ceseña | Program Coordinator, California LGBTQ Health & Human Services Network
National Coming Out Day means no longer living in fear while celebrating our authentic self. The founder of NCOD, Robert Eichberg, stated in 1993 “Most people think they don’t know anyone gay or lesbian, and in fact everybody does. It is imperative that we come out and let people know who we are and disabuse them of their fears and stereotypes.” We are successful entrepreneurs, community leaders, public health workers, actors and actresses, beautiful models and so much more. This is the time for those of us who are living out loud to erase the fear that not only our community encounters, but to erase the fears of parents and families when accepting their queer child. This includes dispelling the myth that we cannot be successful or have families of our own.
Marcela Salvador | Communications Coordinator, California LGBTQ Health & Human Services Network
Coming out is the first step I recently took to publicly start educating others about my experience as a member of the LGBTQ community. I grew up in a conservative country where the lack of LGBTQ representation in every sector of society adds to systemic homophobia and transphobia. This inspired me to embark on a journey to be my authentic self with others and fight for our visibility.
As the poet Adrienne Rich suggested,
“When those who have the power to name and to socially construct reality choose not to see you or hear you … when someone with the authority of a teacher, say, describes the world and you are not in it, there is a moment of psychic disequilibrium, as if you looked in the mirror and saw nothing. It takes some strength of soul—and not just individual strength, but collective understanding—to resist this void, this non-being, into which you are thrust, and to stand up, demanding to be seen and heard”.
Isaias Guzman | LGBTQ Organizer, California LGBTQ Health & Human Services Network
Coming out is a unique moment for many queer and trans* people who choose to share an important part of their identity with one or more persons. It helps change the way we navigate a space, interact with people, and how we feel about ourselves. Coming out is an opportunity to shine brightly, be unapologetic, and share with others your true authentic self. Oftentimes, many queer and trans* individuals will continue to come out throughout their lives as we encounter new people and enter different spaces. It is one of the many lived experiences shared as LGBTQ people, and one that is both filled with excitement and trepidation. However, It is always important to remember that not everyone has the privilege to come out and it is not a required moment to be queer or trans*. Your health and safety should always come first.
Serina Correa | Director of Operations and Development, Health Access
Coming out means empowerment. From age 14 when I first came out and said “I am a lesbian” to today when I come out to new people, I feel a sense of empowerment to freely be me and embrace my whole self. I identify in two ways – latina and lesbian. It took years to say those words out loud and to embrace it. Coming out was the first step in that journey and continues to empower me along the way.
Ron Coleman | Director of Policy & Legislative Advocacy, Health Access
Coming out to me meant acceptance of self. It means being honest with family, friends, co-workers and colleagues about who you are and who you love and being unapologetic about it. Growing up in a formerly social conservative, strict Black Baptist family often led me to believe that there was something wrong with me that desperately needed to be corrected or fixed. Too much anxiety and stress was the result of trying to hide who I was from the world. Coming out brought peace.
From all of us, happy National Coming Out Day!