WEST VILLAGE, Manhattan — Every Oct. 11 in the United States is National Coming Out Day, an occasion that encourages every LGBTQ person to be open about their identity.
This year, Pres. Joe Biden officially expressed support for the holiday, as well as expressing opposition to anti-LGBTQ legislation. Despite the support, some LGBTQ activists in our region said that it’s still difficult to come out and some non-LGBTQ people need to come out themselves, as supporters of people who identify as LGBTQ.
Brianna Levinsky was sitting with friends at the Stonewall National Monument, when they talked about the importance of coming out.
“Nobody really knows what it really feels like to be in the LGBTQ’s shoes,” Levinsky said, adding that they used to identify as male.
“When I transitioned, that’s when I started seeing people really paying me my respects that I came out of my shell,” said Levinsky.
Making that kind of open, bold statement about their identity is an important act of courage. That’s what President Biden said in an official statement on Monday.
This is the 33rd annual National Coming Out day, where LGBTQ Americans are encouraged to be open about their orientation.
However, some advocates for LGBTQ rights on Monday pointed out that the previous four years did not include endorsements of the holiday from the Oval Office.
“The last we had this kind of recognition coming from the White House was the Obama Administration,” said Glennda Testone, the executive director of the LGBT Center of New York City.
She said that the day is important because it helps to promote an action that’s usually done on days other than this one.
“As an LGBT person you have to re-come out all the time,” Testone said. “When you change jobs, when you start dating again, or go to a new place, you often have to come out again and again and again.”
At the Stonewall National Monument, across the street from the Stonewall Inn, a man who gave only his first name, Amen, talked about his home country of Morocco, where it’s illegal to be LGBTQ.
“It’s very hard for them to be out there,” he said about LGBTQ people he knows in the North African country. “So I think most of them just keep it to themselves, which is a sad thing. I hope that it will change some day.”
He was among a variety of people who expressed gratitude that persecution and prosecution like that are not the case here in the U.S. They also said, though, that being able to come out is not always a given in this country, including in our region.
Sixteen states have passed anti-LGBTQ laws this year, and the tri-state region is not immune to the trend, as Christian Fuscarino, the executive director of Garden State Equality, pointed out in an interview.
“Here in New Jersey, where we’ve had senators introduce anti-trans legislation,” Fuscarino said, “what individuals can do at the local level is to speak out against this type of legislation, [and] to get involved with LGBTQ community groups and organizations.”
Also on National Coming Out Day, the new Superman, Jon Kent, son of Clark and Lois, came out as bisexual. DC Comics, through the action of its signature fictional character, who’s based in a fictional version of New York, encouraged real people to embrace who they are.
Fuscarino, the New Jersey-based activist, said that that embracing doesn’t just apply to LGBTQ people.
“It’s also for allies” of LGBTQ people, he said. “In your workplace, in your school, in your local community, you coming out as an ally could save somebody’s life.”