Today is National Coming Out Day. Although it may seem anymore that every day is national something day, today is particularly important for the LGBT community, but also for its allies.
Supporting LGBT people often makes you guilty by association to many homophobes.
When 23-year-old Sam was in high school, she initially felt anxious about letting her friends know she was an ally. This was before her sister came out and before she became heavily involved with the gay-straight alliance at her school.
"Even though all my friends were accepting, I still had the one that was like 'Don’t join GSA! They’ll all think you’re gay!'" she said.
Since then she has become more active in the community and was an intern at GALAEI (The Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative), an organization based in Philadelphia that aims to provide services and education to the city’s Latin community.
I thought about GALAEI the other day while standing in line for a prescription in Rite Aid. There were two older people in front of me complained about Obamacare and the government Shut Down. Once the woman’s name was called, she left the conversation which meant that the old man was left to turn around and talk to me. He told me that when he was my age, America was "like heaven," and that he couldn't believe the state of it today.
"And gay marriage, sheesh," he said. "That’ll definitely be the end of this country."
Rather than explain to him that I’m a gay ally, I let him continue to ramble about how there’s not enough religion and too much technology in society today, as I pretended to be busy on my cell phone. We eventually parted ways and I’ll never know if he got the hint that I didn’t appreciate what he was saying to me.
I’m not normally one to start conflict when it’s not necessary. This man wasn’t being overly rude, nor was he making a personal attack on me since he obviously wasn’t aware of my views. That being said, I regret not being the ally I am, and saying that there’s nothing wrong with gay marriage and that it should be legal in every state in America.
National Coming Out Day for allies isn’t about celebrating gay rights for just one day. It’s about raising awareness to promote equality all year-round.
Would telling that older gentleman how I feel really have made a difference? Maybe not for him, but it would have for me. It would have meant that I held my values and myself in high enough regard to stand up for them.
Today I re-commit to be an ally every day, even when it's inconvenient — even, especially then.