Mark Vaughan

EventsNational Coming Out Day

Out is not an event…it’s a lifestyle.

I came out first to a few trusted friends. I was 22 for the big one, and when I was asked if I was gay, I asked, “Does it matter?” He told me his concerns (he was straight) and we came to an arrangement. And I said the words out loud, “So, yes, I’m gay.”

I had a few friends I told. I had a few friends who told me I was gay, and they were cool with that. I told my doctor, because this was the beginning of the AIDS crisis, and he needed to know. I needed to know everything he learned about this new gay cancer.

I came out to my father, and it was a wonderful experience. My mother found out, and it was hell. So, I know the ways it can go, and can sympathize with anyone who faces rejection.

When I moved to Corpus Christi, I decided “I am OUT, and I am never going back in the closet.” And for the most part, I lived that. But I never came OUT like I did when I took on the fight to Keep M-130. There was an anti-discrimination ordinance passed in Texarkana, AR, that basically said the city and her contractors would not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. And there was a push-back from the Bigot Brigade rallying around the phrase “No Men in our Daughter’s Bathroom.” (Yes, I know where the apostrophe goes. They didn’t. It was on their signs. Even the second printing.) We lost that battle, but we were not out of the fight.

Now I’m on the board of directors of an anti-discrimination non-profit. I’m doing pro-bono counseling for LGBT clients. And I’m out. Way Out. I have been recognized in far flung Nashville Arkansas because I have been on the news. And I have to say, in Trump’s America, that is kind of scary thing.

So why do I do it? Because this is NOT Trump’s America. It is ALL of Ours America. And because I talk to teen-agers who are facing being LGBT and they are so much better off than I was at their age. As bad as things are, they have gotten better. They are healthier, brighter, more hopeful, less battered, and it is so indescribably wonderful to realize that yes, things do get better. But they get better only if we collectively come out of the closet. Hatred and Bigotry grow in the dark, and in silence. Bigotry shrivels outside of silence. When you say “I’m not gay, but I’m an ally, and that was offensive” you have stolen their power. When you say, “You are talking about my gay son,” or “you are talking about my gay sister” you are coming out of the closet as someone who will not stand idly by.

Coming out is a lifestyle. You do it when ever you need to. It’s like a marriage; sure there is a ceremony, but it is something that you work at to keep alive every single day. The work does not end because you say “I do.” Coming Out isn’t over after you say “I’m gay.” Instead it is a continuous call to be your genuine self, to stand up and be counted, and to speak your truth, even if your voice trembles.

Coming out is a lifestyle. Being gay is not. So make your lifestyle choice.