Since 1995, October has served as national LGBTQ History Month in the United States, and one of the month’s most prominent recognitions is National Coming Out Day, held annually on Oct. 11.
“Coming out of the closet,” usually shortened to “coming out,” is a metaphor used to describe an LGBTQ person’s self-disclosure of their sexual orientation, romantic orientation or gender identity. It’s generally seen as a way to promote self-acceptance and LGBTQ visibility.
“LGBTQ visibility is important because it signals to others that one can be out and proud of an LGBTQ identity in a place and not experience violence or harassment,” said Darla Linville, PhD, associate professor in Augusta University’s College of Education and Human Development and faculty advisor to Lambda Alliance, a student organization that supports the LGBTQ community.
“This is crucial to know because it is still not true in so many places — where being out is risky or requires enduring confrontations and questions. LGBTQ visibility lets those new to a community or those newly out know that there is a social scene and support available, people with whom one can be oneself.”
And coming out isn’t just important for social and mental health. Not only can coming out positively impact physical health, but increased LGBTQ visibility can also create lasting change in the health care community as a whole.
“LGBTQ visibility is important because although the mantra of health care professionals is to ‘treat everyone the same,’ we continue to marginalize this community and function as if everyone is heterosexual and cisgender,” said Jennifer Broxton, DNP, a registered nurse and assistant professor in the College of Nursing.
“From a health care standpoint, visibility is critical to identify and address health disparities in the LGBTQ community and to create action plans to address these disparities.”
Arijana Reese, director of IT customer experience on the Health Sciences Campus and founder of Augusta University’s LGBTQ Faculty and Staff Association, has advice for those seeking to come out.
“Coming out requires courage to share your identity and your truth, all in hopes that you will be accepted. I think before coming out you must make sure you have support to turn to. You will run into non-acceptance being who you are and who you love. Be around people that love you, even if they are not family,” said Reese.
“The hardest part will be if your family doesn’t accept you. They may eventually come around, but it is always that first response that sticks with us, because if your family doesn’t accept you, then how will the world do so? But the world is full of wonderful colors, and you are one of them.”