Today is National Coming Out Day.
In case you didn't already know (and if you didn't, you haven't been paying attention), I am a lesbian.
In all seriousness, if you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, please come out.
People are dying.
Gay teen suicide is nothing new. What is new is that it is making the news. But I knew when I came out 25 years ago that gay teens were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide than their straight counterparts, far more likely to try more than once, and far more likely to succeed.
There are a lot of reasons for this, but among the biggest is that they still hear messages all around them, subtle and overt, that something is fundamentally wrong with them. Fundamentally wrong and fundamentally unfixable.
That is where you can help.
I am convinced that one average gay person living his or her life openly and honestly does more than all the marching and lobbying we can do. Studies back that up...people who know a gay person (and know that the person is gay) are far less likely to be prejudiced against LGBT folks and far more likely to support equal rights.
I have seen it in my inlaws, who support and love their daughter while being very conservative on every other issue. People can't say to them "lesbians hate men" or "lesbians had an absent or abusive father," for example, because they know how much my life adores her father. Knowing she is gay and is still the same person they have always loved is the only thing that has made a difference.
So please stop hiding who you are. You don't have to make a big announcement. But put your partner's picture on your desk. Talk to your friends about your life outside of work. Stop treating your sexuality as if it is private, and therefore to be hidden. Do straight people hide their sexuality as private? (No, you don't want to hear the details of their sex lives, but that is quite a different thing from knowing who they have decided to spend their lives with). Behave the same way you see your straight friends behave..."And what did you do this weekend?" "Oh, my wife and I went up to an orchard to buy some apples." Or, "I went to a movie with this new guy I met. He seems really nice."
Behave as though it is natural, because IT IS.
And straight folks, let your kids know that you have gay loved ones. I adore the fact my my sister and brother and my wife's sister have been teaching our nieces and nephews that they have two aunts who are married. To them, our relationship is no different than the other relationships they see in their lives. You don't have to have a big sex talk with a 3 year old to say that Aunt Susie is married to Aunt Cindy. Because you wouldn't have a big sex talk with them about Aunt Sue and Uncle Bob. It is exactly the same.
And what you will do by doing that is raise a child who, if they are gay, will know that there is nothing wrong with them and that you will love them regardless of their sexuality. And if they are straight, they will know that someone being gay is not a reason to bully them.
Please, I am begging you.
Lives depend on it.