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National Coming Out Day is October 11

Dave Gott holding Rainbow Elders sign at paradeDave Gott, Rainbow Elders Group FacilitatorOctober 11 is National Coming Out Day, when the act of self-disclosure of sexual orientation and gender identity is celebrated. This holiday was founded in 1988 in order to give LGBTIQA folks an opportunity to embrace who we are and to share our experience with others if we wish to share.

LGBTIQA refers to the identities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning, asexual, aromantic, agender, and other related identities - including being a straight ally.

When we choose to come out publicly, we give courage to others who are questioning who they are.

Coming out to ourselves usually comes first. Sometimes this takes years. Once we have a sense of who we are, we may still need to hide our identity for reasons of safety. Many of us in places like Massachusetts decide that the risk of harm seems less than the good we can do by sharing our story – at least with certain trusted folks. When we choose to come out publicly, we give courage to others who are questioning who they are. This act can also inspire passage of laws mandating equal protection for all, because enough people come to appreciate everyone’s common humanity.

To me, coming out need not only apply to LGBTIQA folks. I think all people can ask themselves who they really are as a person and whom they would like to know about that. They can also offer safe spaces to others to tell their stories, and educate themselves about all identities.

I was fortunate enough to have a loving family and relatively benign surroundings, so when I realized in 1971 that I was attracted to other men, I began to come out. I still had years ahead of me of undoing self doubt and confusion, but with support from many people I began the journey that has brought me safely to where I am now.

Bisexual and transgender folks are still especially misunderstood in some communities, and in certain areas of the world many sexual and gender minority individuals are at risk of severe rejection and even death. Also, physical ability, race, social class, economic status, religion, and other intersections with sexual and gender identity can enrich our collective experience when these aspects of our lives are not treated as a barrier to human connection.

LGBTIQA elders can be at special risk of social isolation and poor health, because many of us do not have children, because traditional institutions do not universally welcome us, and because we have experienced so much prejudice.

However, groups like the Rainbow Elders help build bridges to services and a sense of belonging. You can visit the Rainbow Elders page for more information, and please feel free to consider joining us for our October 17 luncheon. The conversation topic will be “What’s in a Label?”