Monday, October 11, 2010

Coming Out Day

I want to take a pause from writing about our upcoming recital program to wish a Happy National Coming Out Day to one and all.

I started my morning, as I usually do, by reaching for my iPhone and catching up on the news and blogs that I follow. For me, National Coming Out Day began by reading this story about the latest LGBT teen suicide in Oklahoma over the weekend. Not a very celebratory way to start the day.

Seeing all of the increased media attention to the high rate of LGBT teen suicides, reading about terrifying hate-crimes in the city in which I live, and watching stories of harassment unfold in the town in which I grew up, the importance of today has an even greater poignancy and sense of urgency. There is a lot of talk about the right to Free Speech these days, between Andrew Shirvell’s harassment of the student body president of the University of Michigan and the Westboro Baptist Church's case that was heard by the supreme court the other day. After recently finishing this book about life in North Korea and seeing Mao’s Last Dancer this weekend – seeing how so many people around the world are not free and do not have the freedom of voice that we have here, the value of having that right is not lost on me.

Today, I just wish that people would consider this: With greater freedom comes greater responsibility. Words once said cannot be taken back. Speech freedoms have been restricted many times throughout history and are so even now in many places, because words carry great power. They have the power to heal, to unite, to revolutionize, to inspire, to lead. They also have the power to hurt, to divide, to destroy, and – as the media has been showing us these past few weeks – to kill.

Our youth – our future – are dying because of the messages that they hear. These messages of hate are inciting disunion and horrible acts of violence. Maybe it would behoove us all to do as our parents admonished us when we were children, and think before we speak.

I shared my own coming out story a few years ago here. To those of you who are out and proud of who you are and to our allies - thank you for your strength and inspiration. Today is in celebration of you.

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