The World Outside the Closet Door

This spring, as we were reviewing a Pride Foundation scholarship application from Sam, a young student from Montana who had been a proud and active leader in his community, we learned that he had died by suicide. Sam’s parents loved and supported him in his transition, but the larger injustices facing transgender people in his home community and across the country pained him.

I share this story, as we are in the season of National Coming Out Day and approaching Trans Day of Remembrance, to illuminate how important it is for us to continue to share our stories about coming out.

Yes, we have made enormous progress toward equality over the past few decades. But we are not there yet.

This year alone, hundreds of pieces of legislation targeting LGBTQ people have been introduced across the country. Bills, like HB2 in North Carolina, strip us of our dignity and most basic human rights.

For many, it’s not coming out that is scary—it’s what is waiting outside the closet door. How can we thrive in a world that seems increasingly hostile and isolating?

Threatening and demeaning language is growing commonplace and has found a home in our current political dialogue. This narrative is fostering a climate that has resulted in a significant increase in hate crimes against LGBTQ people, especially transgender women of color.

So, while coming out has become more common, many of us are still fighting for our lives—and for the lives of other LGBTQ people like Sam—to be seen, supported, and accepted.

One way to make the world outside the closet brighter for queer and transgender youth—and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety—is by simply supporting and accepting them as they are, according to a study published in Pediatrics.

It will take each and every one of us—especially those of us who live with the security to come out safely—to share our stories, to speak out, to educate our friends and family, and to encourage healthy dialogue about our community.

It is in the act of coming out again and again that we remind each other—especially the most vulnerable in our community—that when you do experience discrimination or adversity, we are here and you can lean on us.

Kris Hermanns is Chief Executive Officer of Pride Foundation. Email Kris.

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