Whether it’s for the first time ever or the first time today, coming out is an act of courage and liberation.
“Hey Aunt Lauren. It’s so awesome that you came out to Grandma and Poppa and I hope you know we all love you very much.” This was the message I received from my nephew after I told my parents I was gay, and a powerful reminder that my actions to live authentically can have impact others.
“Coming out” is a unique experience for each LGBTQ+ person and it’s not a one-time event. Will they treat me differently? Will they judge or shame me? Will they still love me? These questions are often top of mind of LGBTQ+ individuals every time we share our identity. That’s because acceptance isn’t guaranteed. From anti-trans legislation to acts of violence on the LGBTQ+ community, living authentically comes with risk and fear as we strive to be ourselves. For those who have come out and those on their journey to do so, today is a special reminder that speaking up is an act of courage, honesty and resilience.
Today, Fenton celebrates, honors and supports the LGBTQ+ community by observing National Coming Out Day. Co-founded by activists Rob Eichberg and Jean O’Leary, National Coming Out Day was first celebrated in 1988 during the second March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. Coming out was, and remains, a form of activism to illustrate that most people already know and respect someone in the LGBTQ+ community, and create pathways for individuals to become allies and voices for equality.
Given Fenton’s work with clients who focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, we also strive to create a work environment where all staff members feel safe and supported, and so can be their whole selves at work. That’s why we created Prism, Fenton’s LGTBQ+ affinity group — an internal team of staff who identify as LGBTQ+. The group’s goal is to foster a greater sense of community, create a more inclusive and collaborative culture, provide a safe space for dialogue and share resources for staff to grow as professionals and allies. We meet twice a month, host events throughout the year, and collectively find safety and joy in a space with peers who have similar experiences and journeys.
Coming out is an outward expression of self-acceptance. But it’s important to remember that there is no one way to come out or be out. It’s all about what works for you, wherever you are at today. Just because National Coming Out Day takes place on October 11 it does not mean there is pressure to make announcements before you’re ready or feel safe to do so. If you are exploring what coming out means to you, or want to support someone who is considering coming out, here are a few resources worth exploring:
- The Coming Out Handbook (The Trevor Project)
- Being an LGBTQ Ally (Human Rights Campaign)
- Coming Out as Trans (Planned Parenthood)
- On Coming Out: Personal Stories (TED Talks)
While coming out is a powerful form of activism, speaking up for the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals cannot solely be on the shoulders of our community. We need allies with us to stand up to the onslaught of harmful attacks on equality and LGBTQ+ rights. Since 2018, nearly 670 anti-LGBTQ bills have been filed, with 2022 poised to be the worst year yet. Proposed legislation includes measures to restrict LGBTQ+ issues in school curriculums, limit trans people’s ability to play sports, prohibit gender-affirming health care, and more.
Attacks on LGBTQ+ rights aren’t just limited to individual states. In response to the recent Supreme Court’s ruling revoking the constitutional right to abortion, Justice Clarence Thomas argued that the Supreme Court “should reconsider” its past rulings codifying rights to same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage.
So what can you do? Here are a few resources to help you advocate for equality and LGBTQ+ rights:
- Guide to Being a Straight Ally (PFLAG)
- Mobilize to stop anti-LGBTQ+ legislation (Human Rights Campaign)
- Becoming a funding ally to secure equal treatment for all (Gill Foundation)
- Track LGBTQ+ legislation in your state, then contact your lawmakers (GLAAD)
- Learn about LGBTQ+ political candidates, then get out the vote! (Victory Fund/GLAAD)
We all deserve to be accepted as our whole selves with compassion and love. Fenton remains committed to protecting the rights and dignity for all sexual and gender identities. Today, on National Coming Out Day, we honor all LGBTQ+ individuals who have or are on their journey to share their identity as an act of acceptance, resilience and love.