National Coming Out Day: beyond the average holiday



Nick D’Amico

Imagine living your life with a nearly unbearable weight on your shoulders. This burden stays with you every moment of every day, always lingering in the back of your mind. You wonder, When will I break? When will this get easier? Imagine living a life that feels like a lie, feels like it can change at any moment, with the sense that the people you love may no longer love you once the weight finally breaks you. This is the reality of the thousands of people, many of whom are teenagers, that live ‘in the closet.’ This is why I’ll be celebrating National Coming Out Day this year. “Only by speaking out can we create lasting change,” Dr. DaShanne Stokes said. “And that change begins with coming out.”

Every Oct. 11, National Coming Out Day is honored and celebrated, but it never goes without some criticism. NCOD is held on the anniversary of the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay rights in 1987—a march often dubbed “The Great March,” because it led to significant improvements in the struggle towards LGBTQ equality. 

Throughout my life, I have heard countless people ask why a day like NCOD is necessary. Many argue that by making a holiday of coming out, it detracts from the significance of it. In my opinion, however, it is undoubtedly one of the most important days in the year for many people in the LGBTQ community. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center estimates that 30 percent of the LGBTQ population has attempted suicide at least once in their lives. This is 10-20 percent higher than members of the general population, depending on the age group. Lack of visibility is one of the many factors that contribute to those appallingly high rates. Coming out can be a matter of life or death. Growing up ‘in the closet,’ I neither knew of any openly gay people, nor saw representations of them in the media.  It was not until I took a liking to Lady Gaga that I met other members of the LGBTQ community and realized that life can and will change for the better once you open up and live your truth. If NCOD is able to save merely one life, that is good enough for me. 

Even if you are straight, with nothing to gain or lose by supporting NCOD, it is imperative that you openly throw your support behind it. For those in the closet, your support can mean the world to them.Coming out is a long journey, one filled with anxiety and uncertainty, but there is ultimately a bright light at the end of the tunnel. Without the support of my close friends, family and professors, I would not be where I am today. If you are able to provide a safe space for students here coming to grips with their sexuality, much like the one I found in Jennifer Joyce’s ACS class last semester, you have done your part. Harvey Milk once said, “All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their potential.” For those still in the closet, coming out is extremely important, not only for your happiness, but also for the push for equality. Studies have shown that when people know someone who is LGBTQ, they are more likely to support equality under the law. I hope that through holidays like National Coming Out Day, we are able to make Villanova a more accepting and unified campus, something that is long overdue.