National Coming Out Day began as a day that strove to make LGBT people more visible to the countless Americans who had never met a gay person. But this year, members of the LGBT community say the focus has become more political as President Trump spends his first LGBT History Month in the White House.
Rev. Broderick Greer, a Christian LGBT activist in Denver, told The Fix:
“For LGBTQ people to come out, be out, and stay out about our sexual orientations and gender identities in the Trump years is an act of resistance and an engagement in shameless hope about the country and world we deserve.”
Ohio State University Prof. Matthew Birkhold wrote in an op-ed for The Post that the day is no longer needed in a country where gay Americans are more accepted in society:
America is a safer place in 2017. Polls suggest most Americans consider same-sex relations morally acceptable. Same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states. And the latest Gallup survey indicates that most Americans believe new laws are needed to reduce discrimination against LGBTQ individuals.
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The more Coming Out is celebrated, the more it reinforces a normative ideal that is harmful to gay people. In the process of trying to make ourselves safe and visible, we are marginalizing ourselves. This will end either when all people are expected to “come out” or when no one is expected to do so.
The GOP made gay-affirming strides at the Republican National Convention in 2016, including having a gay speaker and having Trump acknowledge the LGBT community in his speech accepting the party's presidential nomination.
“As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology — believe me,” he said.
After the audience applauded those words, Trump ad-libbed: “And I have to say, as a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said. Thank you.”
Since then, though, gay activists say the Trump administration has made multiple decisions that have been criticized by LGBT Americans — and praised by the president's more conservative base.
“The highest leaders in our country are sending the message to LGBT youth that it is not okay to be who you are,” activist Blair Imani told The Fix. “Today, National Coming Out Day is a political statement because it allows LGBT people to celebrate unapologetic declarations of self. "
Gregory Angelo, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of LGBT conservatives, told The Fix that National Coming Out Day is as important as ever — especially for gay Republicans.
“With Republicans controlling the House, the Senate, the presidency, and the majority of state legislatures and governorships, sharing our stories as LGBT Republicans with other Republicans will be the driving force ensuring that the advances we have made in LGBT freedom are maintained and continue,” Angelo said.
Some activists argue that increased visibility and even support haven't led to policies dedicated to improving the quality of life for gay Americans — particularly in a political climate in which traditional values are championed from the White House and both chambers of Congress.
Instead of moving forward with addressing the concerns of gay Americans, writer Julie Rodgers said the current positions of the administration confirm the long-held fears many LGBT Americans have about being open about their sexuality.
“Our current political climate only confirms the fears closeted LGBTQ people felt all along,” she told The Fix. “When they hear loved ones disparage trans people, it confirms their suspicion that they cannot be truly known and loved by the people around them.
“Visibility also helps others realize they know trans people, and those trans people bring a lot of love and joy into their lives,” Rodgers added. “One story at a time, openly queer people help our communities imagine a future where we can tell the truth about ourselves and thrive.”