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If there’s ever been a time for National Coming Out Day to be a strong influence in society, I believe it’s probably right now.

With the sudden upswing of very publicly published suicides by gay teens this year and very controversial Republican gay-bashing, having those of us who are secure in ourselves and in our lives as gay individuals and couples have a responsibility to reach out to our fledgling brothers and sisters who are having difficult times finding acceptance and self-worth.  Davey Wavey from his blog Break the Illusion made an awesome symbolic video dedicated to those who took their lives this year.  You can see it here.

This is a great day and time where we can spread messages of both love and hate very quickly and the messages of hate come all the more quickly because, in this world, unhappy individuals tend to do much of the footwork.  People are quicker to criticize than they are to lift up and that’s why we need to bring our stories and experiences out to help our fellow community members.

So many of us were in their position at one time, unsure of who to talk to or what to say when society didn’t seem to fit them.  Let’s all keep our ears and hearts open.  We can also take a bigger stand in helping those who are being bullied for their real or perceived sexual orientation, or take a much bigger stand against bullying altogether.  As someone who went through bullying through my elementary and middle school years, I still carry a lot of baggage of those experiences with me.  To be brave enough to stand strong with those who are looked at differently could be the best thing to happen in those individuals’ life trajectories.

Dan Savage started a great project devoted to sharing our stories in hopes that the messages will reach the ears of individuals who need the acknowledgement that things do indeed get better.  You can find out more about this great program here at the It Gets Better Project.

My first and best piece of advice for those who are still closeted and unsure of how to go about revealing their sexuality is to take it slowly.  That’s what I did and that’s what I credit for how smooth a coming-out experience I had.

At first I only shared with very close family and friends, ones I knew for sure that were not going to see me any differently than before.  You really just have to feel people out first and how they react to things, and in your initial disclosures be sure that they are a support system you can trust.  The worst thing to do is to misjudge and tell a gossip in your first steps.  Not always the case, but thinking about the first people I ever told…they were not in what would be considered the A or B groups, we were all kind of behind-the-scenes and outside of that whole hierarchy mess that happens alot in schools.

Remember, this isn’t a race…so take your time and be very focused in your journey.  Coming out isn’t a one time process, it consists of a big initial burst and then has to be slowly maintained as your social relationships change.

For the most part, I work on a need-to-know basis and don’t wear it on my sleeve.  Being gay is only a small part of who I am and I still want people to know me as an intelligent and caring individual first and foremost.    Though I’m not shy about my sexuality nowadays, there are still a number of individuals at work who probably still don’t know I’m gay, and that can be the same for you.  That’s an intimate detail about yourself, share it with those people who you feel will benefit from it the most, and of course those individuals you feel will benefit you the most in your journey.

Remember that this is also going to be hard on the people around you as well.  You’ve probably been dealing with this internal struggle for years, but the people you’re telling only have a few minutes for a first impression.  Work things slowly and allow them time to fully process things.  This requires a shift of societal thinking for them and they too have to apply an internal inventory of all the things they thought they knew versus what the reality is.

The most important thing to remember though is that it’s not always going to be easy.  Be prepared for some rough patches, but also be excited about the new possibilities in your life that are based in truth and LOVE.

Love you all!  Be safe and responsible and hope your coming out day was full of meaning!