In the LGBTQ community, "coming out" means the voluntary self-disclosure of one's sexual orientation and/or gender identity. I believe that coming out means a person feels they can be completely free to be true to themselves and live authentically. It's a fundamental right, and one that everyone deserves equally.
There are many LGBT Muslims and many LGBT persons who embrace Islam as their faith. They address the prohibitive Islamic texts on homosexuality in their diverse ways. Some adopt the "martyr of love" narrative to live their life as a struggle. Others live with severe cognitive dissonance, often zealously following repetitive rituals to fill the inner void. Yet, LGBT Muslims can draw much spiritual comfort from their faith while gently setting aside norms that do not speak to their authentic selves, for Islam is much more than the story of Lot's people.
Any teacher worth her expertly managed pension fund will tell you that the greatest classroom rush is when your kids get it. Well, as I sat there surveying the faces of the teens whom I've witnessed in just about every state of miscomprehension, I noticed something new. Rarified. Exhilarating. Collective understanding of something really, really big.
My best friend for a quarter century has been "out of the closet" all of his life. Me -- since I was 26. We find we agree on almost everything except Mariah Carey, Katy Perry and gay pride. He calls Pride "a bunch of half-naked gays taking up space on a main street -- why bother?" I say it is one of the most important celebrations a gay or lesbian may choose to partake in.
At 15, being called Fagboy on the football field happened. Ironically enough, it was a straight kid with immaculate gaydar who gave me that name in high school. I was thankful that the moniker never lasted more than that year, but those words 'Fagboy' have stuck with me ever since. It would take a few handfuls of girlfriends, over two decades of denial and seven full years of hiding on the other side of the planet -- in China -- before I learned to let go of my fear, my shame and the idea that being gay was wrong.
Because today is National Coming Out Day, I was reminded of my own journey. Almost two decades ago, I came out of that supposed "closet" publicly and purposefully for when I finally figured out I was gay, I wanted to shout it to the world. I eventually found the label "gay" something to be proud of. The gay label is just one small part of the big picture. But take it away and I wouldn't be me.
I came out to my family 10 years ago this month. It was, without question, the hardest thing I have ever done. For a long time, I tortured myself about my sexual orientation. It took a long time before I could even think that little sentence, the one I used to find so horrible and isolating, the one that goes like this: I'm gay.