Twenty years ago, I went to an off-campus party to hang out with some friends. We played music and had a few beers and then, as the night wound down, one of my friends leaned over and kissed another woman with tongue. This weird feeling came over me and I packed up my guitar and stumbled out the door. As I walked across campus, I tried to figure out what I was feeling and my internal dialogue went something like this:
Am I surprised? No, I knew she was a lesbian. Am I disgusted? No! I've seen woman kiss lots of times. I need to figure this out because I like her so much. I want to be her best friend and spend every waking moment with her. I want to watch her sip tea and study - I don't even care what we do. I just always feel so happy when I'm with her and she is so smart and funny and she has such pretty hair and I really like the way she dresses and I love that necklace she wears all the time, love the way it looks against her skin when she wears that low cut shirt and OH MY GOD! I'm jealous!
That's right, folks - I wanted my friend to kiss me. I eventually realized that it wasn't really about my friend and I came out for the first time - to myself.
Coming out is not a singular event. We don't hold a press conference and announce we are gay and then pose for photographs by a celebratory cake before retiring to Arizona to drink Mai Tai's by the pool as Lady Gaga blares through a loud speaker 24/7. Coming out is something we do over and over again every single day. We come out to our friends and families. We come out to co-workers and health care providers and the people who do our taxes. We come out to our kids' teachers and other parents. We come out explicitly and intentionally and each time we do we take a risk. Sometimes, we risk having our feelings hurt. Sometimes, we risk our lives.
Anti-gay bullying and violence, Don't Ask Don't Tell, suicide, legislative discrimination, civil rights being put to popular vote...make no mistake - the GLBT community is under assault. I've heard people say that if all GLBT people came out then people would realize our numbers and discimination and bigotry would come to an end. That might be true. I know for a fact, however, that if every GLBT ally came out and stood with us that we would outnumber the bigots. So, in honor of National Coming Out Day, I challenge all of you to come out as allies. Come out to your families and friends and co-workers and neighbors and the cashier at the grocery store as someone who supports equality for all. Be explicit and intentional. Take the risk that many of us take every single day simply by living our lives in truth. Come out, come out wherever you are! If you do, I'll buy you a Mai Tai.