Standing in line at the grocery store, I overheard two people talking. A man and a woman, quietly discussing the fact that the man was gay, had been for years, and still hadn’t come out to anyone but her. Normally I wouldn’t ease drop, I would look forward and find something to busy myself on while waiting, but for some reason I was compelled to listen. They were starting to become more heated in their conversation, as she was explaining that everyone knew he was gay, even his brother and mother had asked her why he hadn’t come out yet.
It was my turn to check out, so I started putting my things on the conveyor belt and heard one last tidbit before carrying on with my business. The woman asked him why he wouldn’t just come out of the closet already, and his response was simply that it wasn’t doing anyone any harm by him not coming out. His response stuck with me. For days I kept thinking about what he said. There was no harm in it. It was his business, why should he have to come out if he didn’t want to? So what if everyone knew that he was gay, how could his decision to stay in the closet really effect anyone but him?
Then while watching a documentary about the Suffragist Movement in America, which recognized the struggles and adversities that woman had to overcome to gain the equal right to vote as men, I realized why some random strangers nonchalant attitude towards coming out bothered me so badly. While in the early nineteenth century woman had to join together, raise their hands, and say out loud that they deserved equal rights…the LGBT community, is now too, fighting for equal rights as heterosexuals, to not be discriminated against, to marry and start a family, to be allowed in hospital rooms, or inherit money.
I was reminded of a poem I had read in high school, “First They Came…” written by Martin Niemöller, about the inactivity of people during the holocaust.
They came first for the Communists,
And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me,
And by that time no one was left to speak up.
Kinsey’s research states that about 1 in 10 people in the U.S. are gay. But what about all the closeted individuals that are not accounted for? Could that number actually be closer to 3 or 4 in 10? LGBT people must stand up and unite for our equality. By not coming out, you are a hidden entity. By not standing up and being counted, you reduce our numbers and keep us as a minority.
We cannot be weakened by your inclusion, come out, raise your hand, and strengthen our community and help us fight for equal rights. Because the entire world, every person, culture, no matter their sexual orientation or color of their skin, their religion or who they love, everyone deserves the right to be served, to get married (even to get divorced), to have kids, and to live out loud and proud!