A few years back, I wrote about what it’s like to continually ‘come out’ as gay. As today is ‘National Coming Out Day’, I had another look at the post and I don’t think my views have changed enormously.
I still ascribe to being who you are – though I’m also aware of the rise in homophobic hate crime in the UK over the last few years. And the fact that it’s illegal to be gay and actually punishable by death in quite a few (barbaric) countries around the world. Yeah, take a bow, Uganda – I’m sure it’s the only thing you’ve got to concern yourselves with.
So it’s more like ‘I’m going to be who I am, knowing that it’s not possible for everyone to do the same.’
I have to admit I’ve been feeling very low about the apparent reversal of progress the world has seen over the last few years. The rise of populism has been inevitably accompanied by an increase in simplistic bigotry and attacks on minorities. LGBT people are just one group that has suffered.
To think that just a few years ago, it looked like the tide of enlightenment that was sweeping around the world, bringing equal marriage rights in its wake, was unstoppable.
It has all reminded me that we can’t take these kinds of advances for granted. A populist movement, headed by a bigot, can and will try to undo the progress in the name of ‘the people’. Look at the US. Look at Hungary and Poland. Look at the dregs of humanity who have found their voice, clinging to the coattails of the rabble rousers in the Brexit Party. They’re suddenly very open about their bigotry, which I suppose make it easier to spot them…
My response? To be openly and proudly out about who I am. I’ve nothing to be ashamed of. For me, this isn’t about quietly fitting in or being continually grateful for small advances in human rights. It’s about standing up and being counted.
I have to say that just a while back, I let myself down in this regard. In a week that saw multiple homophobic beatings in the press here in the UK, a client asked me why there were still Pride parades. “Isn’t it all okay now?”, they asked. I have to say, I was taken aback and mumbled something conciliatory and bland.
Inside I was shocked and later, fuming.
It’s not “all okay” now and the fact that you can’t see it just underlines your own privilege.
And yes, while it’s great to have a ‘National Coming Out Day’, where we can highlight a welcoming atmosphere for those LGBT folk taking their first steps in a difficult world, I’d like everyone to remember that for many of us, it’s ‘Coming Out’ day every single day.
(And in case you were wondering when ‘National Straight Coming Out Day’ is, you can just get in the sea.)