Oct. 11 is observed as National Coming Out Day by members of the LGBTQQAAIP community all over the world and is designed to celebrate those who publically identify as one of the members of the “alphabet soup.”
For those of you who aren’t familiar with alphabet soup, better known as LGBTQQAAIP, it stands for: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Asexual, Ally, Intersex and Pansexual. I am an active member of the Safe Zone committee at the College of Charleston and because LGBTQQAAIP becomes a mouthful, the campus abbreviates the acronym to LGBT.
On that long list of letters I proudly identify as an ally. That means that I’m dedicated to advocating for equal rights for members of the LGBT community. That means that I advocate for all underrepresented groups in any way that I can.
As an African-American female at a predominately white institution I understand what it’s like to be in the minority and constantly try to have your minority cry heard over the majority roar. I know what it’s like to feel like you’re being judged for a characteristic about yourself that you can’t change, and for that matter, wouldn’t change.
It’s this minor connection that I have to the struggle for equal rights for the LGBT community that has captivated the portion of my brain that says I must take a stand. It’s this connection that makes my stomach turn when I read about hate crimes committed against individuals brave enough to be who they are. It’s this connection that makes my heart skip a beat every time I see a story on CNN about a LGBT youth who committed suicide due to bullying.
This push to legalize gay marriage parallels the struggle to enfranchise African-Americans during reconstruction and during the Civil Rights Movement. This is no different. We are pushing for the enfranchisement of the LGBT community and it’s sad that history has to repeat itself time and time again. William Faulkner said it best: “The past isn’t dead. It’s not even past.”
And while we continue to fight for equal rights, with every bill that passes in favor of gay marriage, we become a step closer to equality; however, it would be naïve of any of us to assume that acceptance comes in a courtroom or on the floor of Congress. It’s much more difficult to change the minds of the average citizen, and nothing but time produces progress.
The road to progress isn’t an express way. It’s not a bypass or highway with smooth pavement and street signs that guide you. It’s not a street or parkway that can be found on a GPS or Google Maps. It’s an old back road, uneven and rocky, without street lights and with frequent stop signs. It’s a hard road to take, and that is why there are days devoted to individuals who have mustered the courage to proudly be who they are. Some of us who aren’t a part of the community don’t have the courage to be ourselves at work or at school, in everyday life, so to be who you are when it’s not “correct,” when it’s not “straight,” when it’s not “popular:” that’s something to be celebrated.
This year as I commemorate National Coming Out Day and respect those who have taken a brave first step, I think about what the phrase “coming out of the closet” means. I think about where that term originated. And I start with the subject of the sentence. The closet. In the English vernacular the closet almost never has a positive connotation. That’s apparently where people keep their skeletons, and as I look in my closet I don’t see any; however, it was recently brought to my attention that I should consider in light of this topic that the closet is a part of your house. It’s the part that you normally don’t show to people. It’s a place where you can keep things safe or hide them.
While I identify as being a part of the alphabet soup, by no means have I had to experience the pain, the sorrow, and the unrest from keeping a part of myself locked in a place that I don’t even value enough to show off to people. I look at my closet once more, and while I still don’t see any of those skeletons, I also don’t see anything attractive enough about this small room without windows that would make me want to be enclosed inside of it.
I don’t have to travel down that road to progress, but I choose to. I choose to hold a guiding light. I choose to be a lifeline. I choose to be a part of a support system, and I choose to rally not only for those who have come out, but also for those who are still storing a part of their existence in the closet. I choose to be an ally.
*The views in this article represent the opinion of the author, and not those of CisternYard News.