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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: Happy National Coming Out Day to everyone except for homophobic employers

Friday Oct. 11 is National Coming Out Day, and we want to take a moment to recognize the bravery and courage that it takes for queer people to declare who they are to the world.

In the wake of the Supreme Court cases heard earlier this week, which concerned whether it should be legal to fire someone for their sexuality or gender identity, it is a particularly troubling time to come out as LGBTQ+. The fact that it is even a matter of debate whether someone can be denied the right to make a living based on who they love or the gender they affirm is extremely backwards. And an unfavorable ruling could encourage some to stay in the closet just to keep their jobs.

That said, a holiday which celebrates the affirmation of these socially-contested identities is inherently an act of resistance and a display of strength. However, we have some complicated feelings about the convention of the day, as it suggests that coming out is just a one-time thing. 

Contrary to what many might think, coming out is a constant, repetitive and life-long process. 

Every time you enter a new workplace or classroom, see distant relatives or old friends, or even start going to a new barbershop, the anxiety of wondering how people will react to your sexual or gender identity — and if that reaction will be physically or emotionally violent — begins brewing in your mind. 

That said, celebrating a singular coming out day can reinforce the idea that it’s a one-and-done kind of thing, when in reality it’s a frequent and emotionally-taxing task. 

All of that is not to suggest that we shouldn’t celebrate National Coming Out Day, but rather that we should not save all of our attention and allyship for one day of the year. We should bring the same supportive energy that we bring to this holiday to every other day of the year.  

Everyone has their own time, process and manner of coming out. Some people bust out of the closet when they’re in middle school, while others wait until they’re well over the hill. Some folks will only tell their closest friends and others will post it on their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter — rainbow emojis and all.

This holiday can make some people feel pressured to come out, and feel ashamed if they don't. But regardless of how it’s done, nobody should feel guilt over whether they choose to come out on the day that they're "supposed to." Coming out can be one of the scariest things that someone does, and might result in physically- and emotionally-violent responses, or in some cases homelessness

So if someone doesn't come out on National Coming Out Day, that's okay. But if an official holiday is the little nudge that they need to stand boldly in their truth then, by all means, we hope they come out. Either way, we should all be supportive of LGBTQ+ people whenever they choose to take this vulnerable step into their truth.

While one of the hardest things in life is telling a loved one who you are and being rejected, one of the most beautiful is being embraced by your friends and family in the fullness of your humanity. Trust us, some of us have gone through it, and just one hug from a friend can outweigh the burn of 1,000 haters. Besides, if your friends don’t celebrate you for who you are — fuck ‘em. They probably weren’t your friends anyway, and you deserve to be surrounded by love. 

So, to our out-and-proud readers, we want to take a moment to recognize both your courage and the closet doors that you may have unknowingly helped open for others. With the same token, we want to affirm and support those who have yet to come out; whatever your reasons may be for staying in the closet, you are no less deserving of celebration. And whenever you’re ready, you’ve got a whole community of queer folks waiting to welcome you.

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