OPINION: Fear of Being Out Shouldn’t Keep You From Being Out

(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Written by Kris Atienza

By Kristina Atienza
BU News Service

The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness: This is a notion created hundreds of years ago. It was decided then that this notion was untouchable — it could not be taken away.

Twenty-eight years ago, October 11 became National Coming Out Day. For those in the LGBTQ community, this is a day when we don’t hide who we are. Today stands as a day for bravery, because living in secret isn’t how anyone should live. Today is meant for people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual and so much more to not live in fear. Today isn’t the end of a journey; it is an important step for so many to begin embracing who they truly are.

In theory, there shouldn’t be any reason that one should hesitate to be who they are without fear or shame. But that isn’t the world we live in.

We live in a country in which the highest court in the land decided on June 26, 2015, that love wins, but in several states, wedding bells just wouldn’t ring for gay couples.

We live in a world that saw the lives of too many young Latinix queer people die in one of the most tragic mass murders on American soil.

We live in a world in which a presidential candidate is willing to support legislation allowing  discrimination on an entire community for religious reasons.

We live in a world in which a vice presidential candidate supports the inhumane practice of conversion therapy to fix what isn’t broken.

We live in a world in which a nonsense law discriminating against an entire group of people is still in effect in North Carolina.

Life. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness.

There are so many people, young and old, who feel like they aren’t entitled to these liberties. There are so many people who can’t even find these freedoms in their own homes. There are people who party their hearts out at Pride but then vigorously hide any proof that they enjoyed a day of being who they are by the time their train takes them home.

Today is meant to celebrate those brave enough to actually live the words they were promised. Yes, today is also meant to celebrate LGBTQ allies, but today is our day. Today, we need to appreciate all the bravery and risk that goes into telling the world that you’re proud to be you.

Coming out can be one of the scariest things in a person’s life. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you get to choose how you do it. Other times, you’re forced to publicly tell the world who you are, even if you aren’t ready.

Today is meant to celebrate those who came out and stood by the principle of who they are, no matter how many twists were in their stomach and how much fear pumped in their veins with each beat of their heart.

Exactly 418 days ago, I took a huge leap and stepped out of the closet. Taking that step was one of the longest processes of my life, because it felt like I cha-cha real smooth-ed with the idea of coming out for months. As tempting as it was to just bury who I am in a mountain of repressed feelings, I knew deep in my gut I couldn’t live like that. I was born in a country that promised me the right to pursue my happiness, and for me, that means being open and able to admit that one day, I might love a guy or a girl. So, with anxiety and fear the size of an elephant, I came out. And it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

This country has a lot of work to do in making things better for people who aren’t straight, rich, white and/or male. The legalization of same-sex marriage has not marked the end of our battle. Today we celebrate those who continue to be out and proud.

Don’t let the fear of being out prevent you from chasing your right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We’re still here. We’re still queer. We deserve to be just as happy as anyone else.

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