October 11th was National Coming Out Day, an occasion dedicated to the sharing of stories in the effort to further equality and acceptance of those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (GLBT). Gay rights advocates established the day in 1987 after the October 11 March On Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights to encourage people to fight against the silencing of GLBT issues.
Coming out is about telling stories, and some vocal anti-gay individuals want to ensure that youth are sheltered from any knowledge of GLBT identities and that their stories are silenced. Students of East Bakersfield High School in California discovered exactly how difficult it is to raise awareness about these issues this year when the principal prevented the school newspaper from running a series of articles that featured students' coming out stories, reports Chris Hayhurst in Teenwire. There has been vocal opposition against school libraries circulating certain books with gay themes or homosexual characters. The alternative fairy-tale King & King by Linda de Haan and Stern Nijland won itself a place on the American Library Association's list of the top 10 most-challenged books in 2004 along side two other novels with gay themes, Mubarak Dahir writes in Alternet. Three states have already made attempts to establish disincentives for schools and libraries that have books dealing with GLBT issues or are written by gay and lesbian authors. And this is only a part of the growing trend to silence discourse about homosexuality in schools, banning books, prohibiting gay-straight alliances, and preventing discussion of homosexuality in sexual education curricula.
As one of the principle aims of National Coming Out Day is to combat this silencing of GLBT stories, gay rights organizations and GLBT publications are acknowledging the day by making an effort to fight this trend. The national gay rights organization The Human Rights Campaign provides an in-depth history of National Coming Out Day on their website. The GLBT magazine The Advocate compiled a set of original coming out stories written by the publication's readers that further the day's mission to encourage story telling and discussion. Joe Solomonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign, writes in The Advocate about the purpose of the day, reminding readers that engaging in open dialogue is important because, 'the biggest supporters of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights are those who know GLBT people.'
Go there >> In The Beginning, There Was a March: 1987
Go there too >> Under Attack: LGBTQ Students Fight for Their Rights
Related Links from the Utne Archive:
Comments? Story tips? Write a letter to the editor
Like this? Want more?Subscribe to Utne magazine