Struggle continues for LGBT community

By Maggie Monson

National Coming Out Day celebrated its 25th anniversary Friday with the theme “Coming Out Still Matters.”

This theme is perfect to commemorate this milestone in the Human Rights Campaign’s international movement. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals still have so far to go before they achieve true equality, legally and socially.

Many people believe the LGBT community does not struggle with discrimination and degradation on a regular basis anymore. Being openly homophobic isn’t ‘politically correct’ these days, so those voices are heard less in the mainstream.

But the struggle is still real for those in the BGBT community.

Gay marriage is still not legally recognized in 37 states. In every one of those states, same-sex couples who love each other and want to build a life together will not receive the same legal benefits as straight couples.

This discrimination extends beyond legal ramifications. Same-sex couples receive the message that their love does not have the same worth as that of straight couples. Our laws ostracize LGBT couples who have done nothing wrong.

No couple should be denied acceptance and legal rights based on other people’s opinions of their lifestyles. Gay marriage should be viewed as a human right.

It does not matter if you personally believe that falling in love with a member of the same sex is wrong. This country was built on the belief of individual freedom. You are free to practice or any religion or not practice one at all.

The freedom of speech is the most impoartant right every citizen is entitled to. You should also be free to love whomever you want and receive the same rights as everyone else.

This is why “Coming Out Still Matters” is such a perfect theme for the day.  For the public to accept that gay rights are synonymous with human rights, everyone needs to be able to associate a face of someone they know with the LGBT community.

Every time someone comes out to their friends, family and coworkers, more people are exposed to the reality that gay people are just the same as everyone else and therefore, deserve the same rights.

“When people know someone who is LGBT, they are far more likely to support equality under the law,” the Human Rights Campaign website states. “Every person who speaks up changes more hearts and minds, and creates new advocates for equality.”

National Coming Out Day was created after a group of 100 LGBT activists met to discuss the discrimination that was and is still rampant worldwide. They realized their community usually had to speak defensively in response to anti-gay sentiments, according to the Human Rights Campaign’s website.

The group wanted to become proactive instead of waiting to defend itself against attacks. They created National Coming Out Day to celebrate acceptance and tolerance. This day gives LGBT individuals the platform to talk about equality in a positive light.

Even though Oct. 11 is the only day specifically set aside to celebrate coming out, we always need to be supportive of our loved ones. Coming out as gay can be challenging for some people who fear unjust rejection or discrimination.

Social equality will only happen when people are able to feel comfortable being open about their sexual orientation. It is important for the LGBT community and its straight allies to promote a safe, accepting environment for everyone. Nobody deserves to live in secrecy and fear of their true identity.

Love is love regardles of orientation. Nobody deserves discrimination. Every day should be a day when we can reach out a hand in support of a loved one coming out to their community, because coming out matters.