Today thousands of LBGTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) people will celebrate our ability to come out of the closet and be who we are. We will celebrate being able to tell our stories. We will tell those stories over again. We will reminisce about painful experiences we have moved through and the relationships that saved us during those times. We will call others to come out of their closets. We will tell them to not be ashamed of themselves, their sexualities, their genders, their partners. We will tell that that we will love them as they are, and that they don’t need to fear making themselves known.

We are privileged – those of us who have come out. We have found support systems that love us. We have found families (by blood or by choice) that take care of us. We are safe – if not in all areas of our lives, at least in some. We have somewhere to go that isn’t threatening. Today we will celebrate that safety, and the struggles we went through to be safe and let our voices be heard.

Later today, I will join in that celebration. Right now, I want to say something different. I want to talk to a different crowd.

So here is what I have to say to you –

to the one who knows that it isn’t safe to come out in rural Appalachia right now; to the one who knows that coming out at 14 in a conservative Mormon family isn’t safe; to the one whose father has said “I will beat the gay out of you” –

Have no shame.

Choose safety.

Be strong.

I will love you as you are even if I don’t know you as you are.

Staying in the closet may be the valid choice for you right now, and I am fiercely proud of you for being able to make it. I know that I have an immense privilege because I am able to be out, and I know that that is not something that you have. I am sorry. I am sorry that you are not safe enough to come out. I am sorry that we live in a world where LGBTQ people are still beaten and abused.

Have no shame. Don’t let anyone tell you that you have to come out. Don’t let anyone convince you that there is nothing worse than staying in the closet. The closet is horrible, and no one should have to live inside of it, but I recognize that there is a time and place for all things, and that you might not live in a place of safety right now.

Have No Shame.

Do not let your decision to stay in the closet become a source of shame. Do not confuse a decision for safety with a feeling of shame about who you are. You can be proud and gay and fierce and still stay in the closet. You can be in touch with your sexuality, in conversation with your G…d, and still be in the closet. You can have your inner diva singing and dancing, and still be in the closet.

Your life, your body, your beautiful soul – these are treasures and you should keep them safe. There may be a time, a place, an occasion to come out. There may be a time, a place, where safety isn’t an issue and you have a support system in place. Then you can come out and join your voice with all of the others celebrating National Coming Out Day.

But this year, I want to celebrate you instead of retelling my story. I want you to know that I am proud of you for choosing safety. I am proud of you for valuing your life and your health. And I will fight for a world that is safe for you. And I will keep fighting until I hear your voice joined with mine.

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