Yes, We Still Need a National Coming Out Day

Should LGBT people still come out? At least one gay man doesn’t think so.

Ohio State University professor Matthew H. Birkhold just wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post advocating an end to National Coming Out Day, which is celebrated each year on October 11.

Birkhold argues that LGBT people have become far more accepted in society since the holiday originated in the late 1980s – so much so that we shouldn’t come out anymore. 

But Birkhold seems to forget one crucial point: Our world may be more accepting than in the past, but that doesn’t make it is safe to be LGBT in the United States today. Just because most people support marriage equality and don’t disapprove of same-sex relations, doesn’t mean that LGBT rights overall are as widely supported.

Less than half of U.S. states have laws to protect workers from getting fired because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBT hate crimes persist. Bisexual women face more sexual assault than any other orientation.

Meanwhile, transgender people die of murder at alarming rates. In fact, advocates put the life expectancy of trans women of color at age 35.

In 2017, coming out still serves as a vital act of resistance.

Over the last few years, many like Birkhold have used marriage equality as a litmus test for LGBT rights. But they seem to forget that LGBT rights are far more encompassing.

After all, not every LGBT person wants to get married. That’s not always a priority when so many people face much deeper violence and discrimination.

Birkhold also makes the argument that our culture needs to treat LGBT people as “normal.” And expecting us to come out reinforces that being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is abnormal.

However, we must acknowledge that some LGBT lives are not normal — and they don’t need to be.

A monogamous, married same-sex couple with children may not look too different from the average nuclear family. However, what about those of us who are non-monogamous?

So often bigots point to gay and bisexual men’s alleged promiscuity to deny LGBT rights. Even for individuals who behave this way, it shouldn’t matter. Everyone deserves basic human decency, no matter how they look or act.

Where do non-binary people who don’t call themselves men or women fit in? What about those whose existence is routinely ignored and fetishized at once, like bisexual folks?

As a bi woman with two committed romantic partners, I can speak from personal experience: People aren’t going to think I exist until I tell them. They aren’t going to respect me until I demand it.

Birkhold acknowledges that National Coming Out Day may be important to some people — and that he has more security as a “white, 30-something married professor.” Even though he’s obviously thought through his stance, he’s incorrect in his conclusion.

I like Birkhold’s vision of a world that makes no assumptions about people’s sexuality or gender identity, but we aren’t close to that ideal yet. Even our history books remain overwhelmingly straight and cisgender.

Coming out doesn’t further marginalize LGBT people. It only shines a light on the discrimination that already exists.

Photo Credit: Peter Hershey/Unsplash

48 comments

Marie W
Marie W3 months ago

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Jerome S
Jerome S5 months ago

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Jerome S
Jerome S5 months ago

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Jim V
Jim Ven5 months ago

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Jim V
Jim Ven5 months ago

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Mike R
Mike R7 months ago

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Mike R
Mike R7 months ago

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Stephanie s
Stephanie Y9 months ago

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Stephanie s
Stephanie Y9 months ago

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Stephanie s
Stephanie Y9 months ago

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