This Saturday, October 11th, is National Coming Out Day. Coming on the heels of a historic week in which marriage equality spread to more than 30 states, some have begun to ask ‘Do we still need National Coming Out Day?’
After all, we have out, gay professional football and basketball players, celebrities, politicians, and business leaders. People are coming out everyday and receiving largely welcoming response. What’s the big deal anymore?
The answer is Yes, we still need National Coming Out Day. And, taking it a step further, Massachusetts needs National Coming Out Day. The reason is simple … youth. Statistics on homelessness and suicide among LGBT youth are staggering. LGBT people make up roughly five percent of the youth population overall, but an estimated 40 percent of the homeless-youth population. The Center for American Progress has reported that there are between 320,000 and 400,000 homeless LGBT youths in the United States. LGBT teens are two to five times more likely than their peers attempt suicide; a study in the journal Pediatrics in 2011 found that 21.5% of their LGBT youth respondents had attempted suicide, compared to 4.2% of non-LGBT respondents.
What does this have to do with National Coming Out Day? These statistics represent a lingering lack of acceptance of LGBT youth. A lack of acceptance by parents, peers, and adults who can help. And yet, each and every time a celebrity or athlete comes out it gives these kids one more role model to look up to. One more ray of light that It Gets Better. It also helps to educate some of the parents who have kicked their son or daughter out of their home.
Several years ago I interviewed Shaun Thornton (then of the Boston Bruins) for Boston Spirit magazine. My thought was that maybe, just maybe, one high school athlete would think “if Shaun Thornton is OK with a gay teammate, then so am I.” And maybe, just maybe, that athlete would spread the word to his/her teammates that gay player on the team (or a gay kid in the school) should be welcomed and accepted.
There remains a real need for role models for LGBT youth. Campaigns such as It Gets Better and You Can Play have done remarkable work, but the job is far from over. Not when so many kids are still getting kicked out to the streets and/or taking their own lives. These kids need to know (just as straight kids do) that they can grow up to have happy, successful lives doing whatever they want to do whether it is running for office, playing a sport, or excelling in business.
Therefore on this National Coming Day, Boston Spirit is calling on Massachusetts business leaders, politicians, athletes, media celebrities, and anyone else still living ‘in the closet’ to come out. The time is now and you can make a difference. It is wonderful that marriage equality is spreading throughout the country and now covers more than half the states but there is more to the LGBT community then the right to marry.
This National Coming Day think about the youth. Be a role model. Come out, Come out wherever you are. [x]