October is just full of these observance days, it seems. Today is apparently also National Depression Screening Day and I agree that it’s important to end the stigma around depression, recognize it, and get proper therapeutic treatment as necessary.
But I’m choosing to talk a bit about National Coming Out Day (NCOD) because the set of issues specifically affecting the LGBTQ community (e.g. bullying, suicide, discrimination) has affected me through the people I care about and was one of the influences that nudged me into pursuing the degree and career I am.
There’s an interesting post here on the history of NCOD. I found the comment “the LGBT community as a whole wasn’t behind the idea [of NCOD] then or even now as many felt it was pressuring people to come out and place them self at risk” to be of particular interest and poignancy. Certainly no one should ever feel pressured to come out; like so many things in life, everyone has their own timeline for it that feels good and right and comfortable for them. And it’s important to remember that for many individuals, coming out isn’t a one-off event; it happens over and over as they meet new people and/or enter new situations. Some feel like it’s something that happens every time they leave the house.
[NCOD] is the day in which it tells people it is okay to be who you are and not be apologetic about it. It is a day we smile, we educate, we increase awareness and tolerance, and it is a day we celebrate the life of those present and the lives of those who passed on.
And, I would add, it is a day to support all LGBTQ individuals – closeted, finding their way, or out and proud – and say, “You’re not alone.”
So in the spirit of the day, I’ll take this opportunity to again “come out” as a Straight Ally. I publicly declare my support of LGBTQ individuals and my hope that my future practice will be a place where they will feel welcome, accepted, and heard. I will strive to be an empathetic ear for those who need someone to talk to, and a navigator for the trip through whatever difficult psychological/emotional waters they face.
Today, no matter your orientation, please remind your LGBTQ friends, relatives, neighbors, coworkers, and acquaintances that you welcome them in your life, just as they are.