Thirty-six years after Harvey Milk advocated for hope, trans* and queer people consider their safety while coming out.
Byline: Agustin Angel Flores, Staff Writer
As October 11th is recognized as National Coming Out Day by different organizations, many individuals who identify as trans and/or queer still have to consider their social environment and what it can mean for them to come out.
“We will not win our rights by staying quietly in our closets … We are coming out to fight the lies, the myths, the distortions,” said activist and San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk, first openly gay elected politician. “We are coming out to tell the truths about gays, for I am tired of the conspiracy of silence, so I’m going to talk about it. And I want you to talk about it. You must come out. Come out to your parents, your relatives.”
This small blurb from Milk’s famous “Hope Speech”–a speech that was expressed in 1978 for the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade in commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall Riots–is partially relevant today. At that time Proposition 6 would make it mandatory to fire gay teachers and supporters of gay rights. Therefore, Milk was taking a radical approach in asking people to come out to their loved ones in order to prevent this proposition from passing, by having voters support their gay friends and family.
To challenge Milk’s belief/strategy, one can argue that regardless of living in the 21st century trans/queer people still take many risks with coming out. Many have to contend with state legislation that discriminate at work and/or schools, youth homelessness—most between the ages of 10-24—led by family rejection and/or abuse, and even suicide for the lack of support. For instance, according to The Williams Institute, 40% of homeless youth identify as trans* and/or queer. These homeless youths run a higher risk for drug abuse, engaging in sex work, and incarceration. Even though people think the trans* and queer community have the same struggles, they don’t. Queer people have more support and resources within cities, while trans* people still struggle with being out in public—Aniya “Ray” Parker, a 47-year-old trans* woman of color, who was murdered early morning of October 2 in East Hollywood—and they don’t have appropriate medical resources, especially in the San Fernando Valley because resources are concentrated in the Hollywood and Downtown LA areas; the closest one would be the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
People who want to come out don’t have to do it urgently but should consider their physical, mental, and emotional state in order to make a healthy decision. A person considers coming out to feel comfortable in their own skin and to find other people that can relate.
Also, with current personal experiences, individuals come out and share their experiences so others without similar beliefs can see trans/queer people are also human beings and they suffer the consequences of transphobia/homophobia.
The current Immigrant Youth Movement in the U.S. has seen that coming out doesn’t necessarily mean a person is “coming out of the closet,” but rather they are “coming out of the shadows.” In other words, they are coming out as undocumented immigrants. There are also those who have to come out as “UndocuQueer”, a self-identifying term for queer undocumented immigrants.
There are a few resources available to you to ease the transition for trans* and queer within the San Fernando Valley. School campuses intend to have support groups, which they usually are supported by the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) Network. Bienestar, located in Panorama City, is a non-profit organization that provides health education and awareness to trans* and queer Latinas/os regarding HIV/AIDS, substance abuse and drug prevention. The Village Family Services opened last year the Drop-In Center in North Hollywood that welcomes at-risk, foster, trans* and queer, and homeless youth ages 14-24. And one of the newest groups to have form this past summer, Somos Familia Valle, will have it’s 1st Annual Latin@ Pride Conference and March this Sunday, October 12, in Panorama City.
As Harvey Milk advocated, embrace the fierce person within proudly; however, do it while feeling safe and it is okay to not be “out” if you don’t feel safe. When you come out, don’t neglect the diverse background each of you holds. Don’t forget that once you come out, you will never stop coming out.