Column: National Coming Out Day is the holiday the LGBTQ community needs and deserves

National Coming Out Day is a chance to celebrate those who have and have not come out yet.

Olivia Apostolovski is a freshman pre-Journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about social issues for The Maneater.

The individuals mentioned in this column have had their names changed in order to maintain confidentiality.

Oct. 11 marks National Coming Out Day, a day celebrated by the LGBTQ community. This holiday is both celebrated and revered by the community.

The Human Rights Campaign first observed National Coming Out Day nearly 30 years ago on the anniversary of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

Every year since then has been a reminder of the progress our country has made toward equality and acceptance of those with different sexual orientations and gender identities.

In a country in the midst of a political divide, National Coming Out Day is one that is filled with acceptance, positivity and love.
In the Human Rights Campaign report, Growing Up LGBT in America, 10,000 teens ages 13-17 were surveyed and out of the 10,000 asked, 65 percent of white teens, 6 percent of Black/African American, 20 percent of Hispanic/Latino/Spanish American/Chicano, 3 percent Pacific Islander and 1 percent American Indian/Native American all reported to fall underneath the LGBTQ spectrum.

High school is more or less seen as the transitional period in a teen’s life where they start to feel out their identity, whether it be which gender interests them or which gender identity suits them.

College, however, is truly when everything comes into perspective. Freedom from family and other restraints that could be weighing anyone down are suddenly lifted.

I realized that I liked girls when I was in seventh grade when I came to the conclusion that I liked my best friend, who happened to be a girl. It made sense as I looked at the bigger picture - we spent almost every weekend at her house and I would always sleep over. We did almost everything together.

After coming to this realization though, I began to worry what my peers and my family members would think and especially what my best friend at the time would think.

Over time, I admitted to my family that I liked girls and boys, but they either saw me as lesbian or straight, depending on who I was dating at the time. Bisexuality doesn’t exist in their eyes, which was and still is troubling, but I know who I am attracted to and I don’t need a label to show that.

Tate*, one of my best friends, is gay and transgender. I knew both of these and never batted an eye, I have known him for nearly all of my life and his identity never changed who he is as a person.

He first confided in me around freshman year of high school that he wasn’t comfortable identifying with the sex that he was given at birth, something that I could somewhat notice in certain conversations that we had in the past.

His confession did not make me feel different towards him. Just like Tate’s other friends, I worked to better educate myself on what it means to identify as transgender, what the community is like and what the process of transitioning is like.

“My friends are respecting and accepting, they have all been through it with me,” Tate said. “My close friends know my pronouns and associate me as a male in general, they correct a lot of people for me when they get my pronouns wrong because sometimes I am unable to correct other people.”

We’ve gone through many hard times together. Some of which included figuring out who he now was, with his new name and pronouns, to the lighter side of things such as us going to our first Pride together.

He is my best friend and I have been able to see him blossom into the man that I always knew he could be. It has not always been as smooth as it seems and as a result, he has had to deal with many situations that others may not have experienced before, such as being misgendered and having to explain his gender identity.

“I thought that coming out was going to be a one and done thing, that everyone was going to get it,” Tate said. “People didn’t want to accept it or respect it, so I would have to keep explaining it over and over. I still have to keep coming out to my parents because they don’t understand and respect it.”

Ashley* is just another MU student who has begun to question her sexuality and she is not alone, a study posted by GLAAD revealed that 20 percent of the age group 18-34 identify themselves somewhere on the LGBTQ spectrum.

“I figured out I was questioning [my sexuality] when I realized that I don’t have to be straight, it is socially acceptable to not be straight,” Ashley said. “I had a crush on a nonbinary person at my high school. It made me realize that I liked someone regardless of if their gender was binary or not.”

One of the biggest issues of identifying as a part of the LGBTQ community is figuring out how to come out to your friends, family or loved ones when the time is right.

In a study done by The Pew Research Center, nearly four in 10 LGBTQ American adults have been rejected by family or friends because of their sexual orientation.

“I didn’t think coming out would be hard until I thought about doing it. I haven’t really thought about coming out to all my friends and especially not to my family, I don’t know if they’re homophobic or not,” Ashley said.

Having a community on campus that is inclusive and accepting should be a priority for every university, it gives individuals a place to feel safe and needed at a time where it may not be easy to say that. Many students, my friends included, feel able and willing to say that they feel accepted within the community here and the atmosphere here.

It is hard being a member of the LGBTQ spectrum in a state that is still riddled with homophobia and transphobia but MU has given me a place that I love enough to call home.

National Coming Out Day is a day dedicated to the LGBTQ community. It is a day that is theirs and theirs only. Oct. 11 is a day where individuals are able to be open and honest, with themselves and others.

So, I dedicate this last part to the allies: please do not out your friends. It is hurtful, it is traumatizing and they will open up about it in due time. Just because this day is dedicated to them does not mean that they need to open up about secrets they had no intentions on sharing.

In society today, there is no room given to experiment without being judged. Individuals who are questioning their sexuality or gender identity are asked to label themselves in order to make other individuals feel better, in order to put them into a box where they may not feel comfortable fitting into.

As allies, the best things you can do is to be there for those close to you because Oct. 11 has as much pain and suffering as it does happiness and acceptance. Teenagers and adults across the world are unable to come out for various reasons and we celebrate those who are and aren’t out. The best thing that can be done is to commend them because I personally am proud of each and every individual of the LGBTQ community, whether they are out or not.

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