Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are
There is no question that the LGBTQ+ movement for equality has been long and hard. It has also been one of the fastest-paced vehicles of change in recorded history. One explanation is that the act of “coming out” challenges bias directly and potentially changes minds. Family members already love their daughter, for example, and when that daughter comes out to them, they must face the choice of loving their daughter completely, or holding on to bias and prejudice. Yes, this puts an immense burden on the daughter or son, and the family members may well choose bias over love. The relative success of the LGBTQ+ movement, however, suggests that love really does win.
Today, that same technique can be applied to other social issues, especially those that benefit from legislation. Disability and illness, for example, can be invisible. Parenthood can be invisible in certain circumstances. Class can be performed in a way that hides one’s true financial situation or background. If you find yourself in a situation where someone clearly misidentifies who you are or your condition or background, the temptation can be strong to embrace it — even internalize it to the point where you, yourself, believe it. Instead, come out.
If someone assumes you have lived a privileged life, when in actuality you received free lunch at school, come out.
If someone congratulates you for not being "crazy," when in reality you receive mental health services or prescriptions, come out.
If someone disparages disability around you, when you experience invisible disability on a daily basis, come out.
When someone says that pre-existing conditions should result in higher premiums, but you have benefited from protections for pre-existing conditions, come out.
When someone makes generalizations about parents, families, or marital status that contradict your lived experience, come out.
When you have a family member on Medicaid, recognize that Medicaid is a government program that cannot be substituted by any existing for-profit or non-profit entity. Then, come out and fight for it.
We all have power. Some of us derive power from recognizing our current reality for what it is, and navigating it in ways that cater to prejudice. I do not argue that this is wrong in all circumstances — at times it could mean the difference between life and death. At other times, power can be derived from recognizing bias for what it is, and challenging that bias with truth.
This is no easy task for anyone involved, and there is no prescribed path for action. Remember not to "out" anyone else; their path is theirs to choose. Start building your own courage, though. Take a look at who already loves you and what their biases may be. When the time is right, sooner rather than later: come out.