Coming Out Day Hailed
National Coming Out Day was hailed as an essential day of recognition and support in the wake of a rash of GLTB youth suicides.
An Oct. 11 article at Syracuse.com traced the day's beginnings to 23 years ago, in 1987. The day was initially meant to bolster GLBT visibility and mutual support in the face of the ongoing AIDS crisis. In 1987, an article about National Coming Out Day that is posted at the Human Rights Campaign's website says, the NAMES Project Quilt was shown for the first time. The quilt is a giant textile made from individual panels that bear the names of AIDS victims. The date for National Coming Out Day commemorates the date of the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
But this year's observance in the LGBT community of National Coming Out Day, which is commemorated each Oct. 11, unfolds against an equally grim background: a plethora of suicides by gay teenagers who were reportedly the victims of anti-gay bullying and harassment.
"Coincidentally, today's annual celebration falls one day after Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino stated his opposition to same-sex marriage during a speech before Orthodox Jewish leaders in Brooklyn," the article notes.
Paladino, a Catholic, cited the teachings of his faith on Oct. 11 in defending comments he had made the previous day to an audience in a Brooklyn synagogue. Paladino said that children should not be "brainwashed" at school into thinking that to be gay is okay.
On Oct. 11, Paladino backpedaled, saying on television that he has no problem with gays, outside of his conviction that marriage should be reserved as a special right for heterosexuals. Paladino also echoed the Catholic tenet that homosexuality is an inborn, innate characteristic and not a "choice," although acts of same-sex physical intimacy are condemned by the church as "inherently evil."
GLBT equality groups have condemned such rhetoric as possibly being a catalyst for tragedies in which GLBT youths kill themselves.
Suyracuse.com reported that Syracuse University's LGBT Resource Center had scheduled films and discussions to address the topic of GLBT youth and their plight in the homophobic culture of many high schools, and American culture at large.
Similarly, film screenings and other events were scheduled to take place at Colorado College in Colorado Springs., Colo., noted local newspaper the Colorado Springs Independent in an Oct. 11 article. The newspaper noted that Coming Out Day is "a day not just for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning individuals to speak out about who they are, but also a day for allies to step up and be active voices." The article also addressed the role of affirming churches and people of faith: "With the large percentage of religious organizations in Colorado Springs, the topic is certainly worth discussing," the article said.
Colorado Springs is home to anti-gay organizations such as Focus on the Family and the Family Research Institute, but students at the college planned assorted activities in honor of National Coming Out Day, including a "Spiritual Journeys Luncheon" at the office of the school's chaplain, and an "Ally Workshop."
Moreover, college GLBT equality group EQUAL volunteered to make videos of anyone wishing to record a supportive video message aimed at reassuring gay teens that might be contemplating suicide. The videos were meant to be shown to local support groups and possibly added to the "It Gets Better" project, a series of messages posted at YouTube in which celebrities and everyday people, gay and straight alike, appeal to gay youths not to despair.
The Village Voice offered a selection of personal stories in observance of National Coming Out Day. Among those contributing brief essays about their own coming out stories are Village Voice columnist Michael Musto, Queer Rising founding member Jake Goodman, and New York Times web producer Mekado Murphy.