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  • Writer's pictureDiego Tomasino

Today is Coming Out Day 🚪🌈

October 11th is International Coming Out Day and I personally celebrate the birthday of my book “Come Out! Las empresas también tienen que salir del clóset”.

This day seeks to raise awareness of the human rights of the people who are part of the LGBTIQ+ community. Today we seek to raise the voices of those who freely express their sexual orientation, their identities and dissidences before the society, without any discrimination.

It is countless the number of times that people in my community still have to say "I'm gay", "I'm lesbian", "I'm queer", "I'm trans", I'm "non-binary", in short... communicate to society, family, and colleagues that we want to live our authenticity without asking anyone's permission.

But what does it mean to “come out of the closet”, why is it celebrated today and why is it important to live our authenticity? What can companies do to support their talent in this process?

I’m coming out…

Coming out” refers to the voluntary and public action of a person to express their non-heterosexual sexual orientation.

This phrase comes from the Anglo-Saxon expression "to have a skeleton in the closet" which means "to have something shameful that you do not want to make public". It works as an analogy that illustrates the idea of keeping an aspect of life locked up, guarded or hidden, mainly for fear of suffering discrimination or stigma for being part of the LGBTQ+ community; or, put another way, for not being heterosexual.

I want the world to know…

National Coming Out Day was implemented by activists Jean O'Leary and Dr. Robert Eichberg in 1988, and gradually began to be celebrated around the world.

Jean (1948-2005) was a passionate advocate for women's rights. She founded the Lesbian Feminist Liberation in 1972 and two years later joined the National Gay Task Force (now the National LGBTQ Task Force ) as co-executive director. Robert (1945-1995) was a prominent psychologist who wrote “Coming Out: an act of love” and founded “The Experience”, a community that supported people in the process of coming out with their family and friends.

October 11th, 1988 marked the anniversary of the First March for Gay and Lesbian Rights, which took place in Washington D.C. It was the largest queer demonstration of the decade (and the second on Capitol Hill after the first on October 14, 1979). The crowd was estimated at between 500,000 and 750,000 protesters, demanding an end to all oppression based on sexual orientation, gender, and race, and demanding equal rights for all people without discrimination.

The trigger was President Ronald Reagan's neglect of the HIV epidemic and the Supreme Court's 1986 ruling against consensual sex in Bowers v. Hardwick. Some of the prominent faces at the march included actress Whoopi Goldberg and then-Democratic presidential candidate Jesse Jackson.

Cleve Jones' “Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt” was exhibited for the first time during the Second March celebration. This collective creation was made up of names and memories of people who died from complications related to HIV/AIDS, many of whom were deprived of a funeral due to social stigma.

Got to let it show…

The process of coming out of the closet is not easy, it requires courage and bravery. And it is something that is not a one-time deal. We constantly have to come out of the closet: with our family, our friends, at work, at the club, everywhere. The good thing about taking this big step is that it comes with several benefits:

  • Helps mental health: being authentic with ourselves allows us to live an honest and full life. In turn, it reduces the stress caused by hiding our identity. Heterosexual people do not have an idea of what we have to go through in order to accept ourselves 100% and be able to live our true lives without fear.

  • It gives us a sense of belonging: being in contact with more people from the LGBTQ+ community helps us develop closer and more genuine relationships. Our community is dynamic, empathetic and courageous. A lot of times the families of LGBTQ+ people turn their backs on us, and it is in the people of our community that we form our own family.

  • Improves self-esteem: going through this process helps us become aware of our value and makes the people who know us love us for who we really are. As Ru says “if you can´t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else?”

  • Gives visibility: coming out of the closet makes us role models for other people, and makes us help young people to make the acceptance process easier for them. In addition, it helps evaporate the myths and stereotypes that many people have about LGBTQ+ people.

  • Increases our work productivity: hiding our identity in the workplace causes our energies to be focused on “not being noticed” instead of applying them to our tasks. This makes us less productive, which has negative consequences for both companies and their talents.

I'm coming out (comiiiiiiing)!

Despite the great advances of our community, it is still difficult in many societies, cultures and religions to openly express people's sexual orientation, contrary to traditionally established standards. That is why it is important to make visible that the LGBTQ+ community exists, that "we are queer, we are here!"

Let's understand that coming out of the closet requires great courage. We must make the rest of society aware, demanding recognition and tolerance of sexual diversity, since there is still a long way to go in the search for the inclusion of our community.

And what about our families and friends? there is always the possibility of not having understanding and support. However, it is necessary to create our safe containment groups. People we know who will be there to support us as we take this important step and give us strength to move forward with our truth. You also have the support of Foundations, organizations and campaigns that can advise you and help you break out of the closet.

And that's not just on a social level. Other acts of discrimination continue to be observed at the company level as well. Some examples are unequal treatment, psychological harassment, non-assignment of tasks according to knowledge, limitations on promotions and even dismissal.

And that´s the reason of my book “Come Out! , in which you can find many tips and strategies on how to create more inclusive work environment. Because it is no longer enough for people to come out of the closet, it is time for companies to do so, too.

On this anniversary, and on this very special date, I extend the invitation to encourage you to live authentically, to live a life in total freedom from social pressures and stereotypes. Let's keep practicing empathy, respect and tolerance. Let's be part of that change so that there are no more closets, and let's help to explode them forever!!

[1] In this case, Michael Hardwick sued Georgia Attorney General Michael Bowers for enforcing the criminal law that criminalized consensual sodomy between adults. Hardwick's defense argued that the right to privacy protected by substantive due process of law prevented the state from criminalizing consensual sodomy between adults. In a case decided 5-4, Judge Byron White stated that the jurisprudential criteria for declaring a fundamental right is based on conduct rooted in the tradition and history of the nation. As sodomy is not part of said tradition and values, it is not a fundamental right and cannot be protected by the due process of substantive law of the 14th amendment of the Constitution.

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