National Coming Out Day–We Still Need It

When Will and Grace made its heralded return last year, one episode (featuring the always-adorable Ben Platt)  pointed out how the experiences of young gay people today are vastly different than those of the folks who came along (and out) 20 years ago…even 10 years ago.

My daughter goes to a public arts and science magnet school where being gay is not a problem to be solved or an issue to be faced. Gay people can be found in school leadership, on stage, on the fields and in detention…just like all the other students. I pastor a church that sits in the middle of a very gay-friendly downtown area and would be up a creek without the leadership of our LGBTQ members . It is easy to stay in my bubble and believe that all is well now.

As appealing as it is to believe that we are in some sort of post-homophobic era, that is very much not the case.  In my city, Lucie’s Place, a home for homeless LGBTQ youth, is still very much in business–embracing young people whose parents have kicked them out because of who they are.  That is gut-wrenching, heart-breaking stuff. It makes my heart hurt, so you can only imagine the amount of healing these young people need.

No matter how many TV shows and college towns tout a new day for gays, in rural communities and conservative churches,  being LGBTQ is still seen as a stigma, a sin and a cause for shame. Coming out for young people in many parts of our country remains scary and even dangerous. Having a day when you definitely know you are not alone, and there is extra support in place is still important for lots of people in lots of places.

It’s especially important as not just issues of sexuality, but issues of gender, come in to play. There is a growing anxiety and fear around gender roles, and the idea that we are letting go of them.  There is a desperate attempt on the part of many to cling to those binary definitions of gender as if the strength of our country and the state of our souls depended on it. Last year around this time, on the Pantsuit Nation Facebook page, there was an adorable picture of a little girl sporting a killer haircut and a perfectly-cut white pantsuit that she bought for her first communion. Only she was told by her church that if she wears the pantsuit and not the requisite dress, she is not welcome to take communion. Seriously? Because everyone knows that Jesus really hates pants on girls? Because there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God except gender neutral clothing?

We have come a long way, baby, but we still have a long way to go.

If you know someone who is coming out today, be present and supportive. Remind them that they are a beloved child of God, and that you think they’re pretty great, too.

And if you’re coming out today, know that you are beloved child of God, and there are lots of people who are super glad that you are you.

–Rev. Anne Russ

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