When I first started my career, I kept a low profile. I was afraid that being out would hurt my career and I was always very private about my personal life. But when I came out, everything changed: I was able to be my most authentic self. I was able to push for what I believed in and my life and career flourished because I was being authentic and true in the work that I was doing.
National Coming Out Day is a celebration of who we are and of our community. It was started in 1988 and was founded on the principle of raising awareness for LGBTQ rights. It’s an acknowledgment that we’re constantly working to create a welcoming environment for all LGBTQ people, no matter their age or stage of life; whether they’ve come out for the first time or the hundredth. As I’ve learned, and as many of us have learned, taking a struggle and turning it into a triumph is one of the strongest things we can do.
Since President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger welcomes baby boy Tennessee lawmaker presents self-defense bill in 'honor' of Kyle Rittenhouse Five things to know about the New York AG's pursuit of Trump MORE's election, we’ve seen egregious attacks on the transgender community including ongoing efforts to ban transgender soldiers from openly serving in the military and revoking non-discrimination protections for transgender youths at school. With help of Attorney General Sessions, President Trump rescinded Title IX protections for transgender students in our nation's schools.
We have seen a push for religious exceptions that would enshrine anti-LGBTQ discrimination into policy and law. And most recently, we have a new Supreme Court justice who praised Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent on Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark case guaranteeing same-sex couples the right to marry. Any progress we’ve made toward full acceptance has been halted, or is in danger of being dismantled by this administration, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.
We can mobilize to bring LGBTQ issues to the forefront this election season. We aren’t just single-issue voters or “special interest” groups. When we came out in our personal lives, we acknowledged that these are our lives, our identities are important to us and we are proud. And it’s our lives that are at stake now.
As voters, we have the power. We can let our politicians — who are our elected officials, whose policies and decisions affect our lives even more than the decisions of the president — know that we insist on prioritizing LGBTQ rights and that we push for full acceptance of all LGBTQ people, nationwide.
You can still register to vote in 31 states. It’s never too late to come out as LGBTQ in your personal life and it’s never too late to come out in support of LGBTQ rights politically.
It’s time to come out with our politics and let our politicians know that LGBTQ people are here, we have a voice and a vote and we’re going to use it.
Sarah Kate Ellis is the president of GLAAD, one of the nation’s largest LGBT media advocacy organizations.