23 years ago, Matthew Shepard was killed because of his sexual orientation. He wasn’t the first LGBTQ person to be murdered because of who they are or loved and he wasn’t the last. What had changed for our community by 1998 was the culmination of efforts led by advocates and activists across all sectors of society fostered a climate that was willing to tell his story authentically, our story. Time and time again, despite our fears, we came out.
Coming out looks different for everyone. The moments, ages, or scenarios we choose to dance in and out of the closet are unique to each of us and fluid. Environments cultivated by our neighborhoods, families, schools, educators, cities, places of work, or worship inform and influence our sense of safety and ability to live as our authentic selves; freedoms not felt evenly across our community.
Only 29.5% of LGBTQ workers are fully out at work, yet 46% of LGBTQ people experience discrimination in the workplace. While those numbers are the average for our community as a whole, it comes as no surprise that our community members of color experience higher rates of discrimination. 59% of LGBTQ students feel unsafe at school, nearly all report hearing anti-LGBTQ remarks at school. Our LGBTQ students of color experiencing the compounding impacts of racism feel even less safe at school.
Monday, October 11 is National Coming Out Day. Study after study reminds us that when you know and love an LGBTQ person you are more likely to support our issues and stand up to harassment and discrimination leading to better-lived experiences for our community. A Gallup poll this year showed that 15% of Gen Zers are identifying as LGBTQ. Progress made possible, youth who feel safer to be out, because of the work that has come before them.
To those who came out long ago and paved the way for us, thank you. For those who are out and our allies holding positions of power, we ask that you use the privilege to create safer environments in our places of education, employment, and public accommodation. For those who have yet to step out of the closet, take your own time. Be gentle with yourself. Know that we are working for you and you are welcome in the daylight with us when you’re ready. Come out Resilient.
With Pride, Fernando Zweifach López Pronouns: They/Them/Theirs Executive Director San Diego Pride
Fernando Lopez is the Executive Director of San Diego Pride. Lopez’s years of LGBT advocacy, nonprofit management, public education, diversity consulting, media relations, guest lectures, and organizing have made them a consistent presence ensuring the struggles of the LGBT community are ever visible.