Coming Out Day Seen Key After Scandal

ClosetAs the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community celebrates today’s National Coming Out Day, the occasion comes at a time when seven out of 10 straight adults in the U.S. say they know someone who is gay, according to a recent poll.
It also coincides with turmoil in Washington, D.C., centered around former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., who announced he is gay after it was discovered that he had inappropriate e-mail contact with underage congressional pages.
“Given the recent scandal in Washington, it’s particularly important that people celebrate Coming Out Day and really honor people who are living honestly and openly,” said the Human Rights Campaign’s Mark Shields, director of the grass-roots organization’s National Coming Out Project.
“It’s particularly important that GLBT people and straight people who care about GLBT people talk about who they are and put a human face on the real community.”
National Coming Out Day – first held on Oct. 11, 1988 – is designed to give the gays and lesbians the opportunity to “come out” to others about their sexuality and to raise the profile of the GLBT community.
Los Angeles County, which has a population of about 14 million people, has a GLBT
population that is estimated to be as high as 1.4 million, according to Darrel Cummings, chief of staff for the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.
“Los Angeles has made tremendous gains over the years and it is seen as a GLBT friendly environment,” Cummings said. “But that doesn’t mean that there is not tremendous homophobia that continues to exist within the boundaries of L.A. County.
“That’s why coming out continues to be the most powerful political act that our community can take. When we do that, we humanize who we are to our families, to our co-workers, to our teachers and everyone we come in contact with.”
An online survey of just under 3,000 adults – conducted by Harris Interactive and released this week – showed that of the 324 respondents who identified themselves as GLBT, 83 percent consider themselves out.
Some 92 percent said they were out to close friends, followed by 78 percent to their parents, 68 percent to other relatives, 68 percent to acquaintances and 66 percent to co-workers and colleagues.
Former Los Angeles Dodger Billy Bean, who was closeted throughout his professional baseball career, said Tuesday that people need to be able to come out in their own time.
“I think Coming Out Day is more about we as a group vocalizing our mass positive experience of being out,” said Bean, who came out after he retired and wrote the best-selling memoir “Going My Own Way.”
“None of us start at the same place and time,” Bean said. “When I was in a position emotionally to make it happen, there was such a relief in living honestly and being able to give my family and friends and people I care about the opportunity to know me completely. I just became so much closer to them. As time went by, I even got closer to the guys I played baseball with.”
“It’s about showing people that you can live a life that is complete and full and honest in an open way.”
from The Los Angeles Daily News / Greg Hernandez

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