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haring coming out day

It’s #NationalComingOutDay, and I’ve got a way everyone can participate.

I want you to put yourself in the closet for a day.

See how long you can go today without making any statements about your spouse/partner/significant other or revealing your gender identity.

Take a trip down memory lane for any work trips, out of town conferences or vacations you may have taken. Do a little research to find out when those places decriminalized homosexuality. And, in the places where being gay, lesbian or bisexual isn’t criminal, see if there are any protections against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation.

Think back on your significant rites of passage: first day of school, first kiss, senior prom, first job, getting engaged, marriage, paying taxes, etc. Ask yourself how each situation would have been different if you had been having to hide who you love or where you fall on the gender/sexuality spectrum from your family, your friends, your peers or your boss.

Some languages, such as English, do not have a gender neutral or third gender pronoun available pronouns. For today drop pronouns for yourself and for your romantic partner. When you pass people in the hallway or the street, don’t automatically default to using gender cues to categorize them as male/female. Think before filling out forms which require you to select a gender.

Tonight, when reading bedtime stories to your kids, avoid anything like classic fairy tales (Cinderella, Snow White, etc) with their heavy male and female stereotypes or romanticized storylines about heterosexual love. Do you have any books you can read with gender non-conforming heroes or of children adopted by same-sex couples?

When watching TV or reading a magazine, consider how many times a day you are presented with images of men and women together in relationships of sex and love. When out driving or exercising today, think about the words before singing along with the songs on the radio or your iPod.

Before reaching for your partner’s hand when out in public, look around. See if it is safe to do so, wonder if the people around you may be harboring violent thoughts about people like you who are “flaunting” your sexuality in their face.

This is a day when many people (not just trolls on Twitter) will make jokes about how National Coming Out Day is “so gay!”  Reflect on the courage it requires to move from being a passive bystander to taking an active role in addressing name-calling and disrespectful humor.

Few people who take this challenge can last more than an hour or two without slipping up and mentioning their significant other or making a comment that outs them as straight or cisgender.

If you did try, I hope you gained a better understanding about how much work and emotional effort it takes for someone to be closeted. I especially hope you have more empathy (or even sympathy) for those who have to stay closeted for their own safety or security.

Ally is a verb, not a noun. It is a call to action.

Maybe now you can answer the call.