Coming out as LGBT can be terrifying and joyous. Sometimes both at the same time. It can also be the single-most important thing a gay person can do — for him or herself, and for the community.
“Coming out videos“ are a popular staple on YouTube, some posted by kids as young as 12 to 16. This is amazing to me! Coming out was unimaginable to me at that age. It took me until age 22. Things have moved light years ahead since my youth, yet it can still be very difficult and scary to come out. This is abundantly clear watching these videos, some capturing the actual moment with all its fear and anxiety.
Concealing one's identity can be horribly painful, magnified many times over if you think there's a chance your family will reject you — the people you love and need the most. Many youth still struggle today with self-acceptance, rejection by family, bullying and worse. Estimates vary widely, but as many as 40% of homeless youth on the street may be LGBT. Some were thrown out while others left on their own to escape hostility or physical and emotional violence. LGBT youth are 4 times more likely to commit suicide than the average teenager. LGBT youth rejected by their families are 9 times more likely to commit suicide — nine times!
Coming out is an incredibly important and powerful act — but only when you're ready, of course. Not before. Millions of people have done so, and there's no question these individual acts of courage have unleashed a mighty power. Our increasing visibility has propelled LGBT rights forward at amazing speed. It's much harder for people to remain bigoted when they realize they're surrounded by gay people. We are your parents, children, aunts, uncles, friends, neighbors, teachers, pastors, doctors, coworkers, bosses — potentially anyone, anywhere. We are the people you love, cherish and respect. And yes, sometimes we’re the ones that annoy and piss you off! That jerk that cut you off yesterday? ... Could be!
It‘s not really known how many gay people there are. Most credible estimates range from about 5% to 10% of the population. My gut instincts tell me it's higher — 15% at least — because the official estimates depend on people self-disclosing their attractions and experiences. For many it‘s still very difficult to acknowledge this, even to themselves. Someone that conflicted and closeted is unlikely to tell a researcher or pollster, no matter how confidential.
But let‘s go with the official high-end estimate of 10%. That‘s about 32 million people in the United States — greater than the population of any single state except California.
This page is devoted to people's individual stories about being LGBT and coming out. In a few cases, we see their actual coming out captured live on video. This is the age of YouTube and social media! Sometime soon I'll write about my own coming out. I'll post it to my blog with a link here.
In 1988, October 11th was designated as ‘National Coming Out Day’ each year. The video below was produced by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) to celebrate this year's National Coming Out Day (2016).