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An Open Letter to My Legally Superior Heterosexual Friends, Family, Colleagues, and Acquaintances

Dear Legally Superior Heterosexual,

Today is “National Coming Out Day” — a day when gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people let their truth be known. On this day, we gay folk are supposed to tell heterosexual people like you that we are of the LGBT variety.

For a decade now, my friends and family have known that I am gay and each year it becomes harder and harder to think of someone who might not know that I play for the other team. So, instead I use “National Coming Out Day” as an opportunity to spread awareness about some alarming facts even our fiercest gay allies may not know about.

I grew up in California and I’m gay. It took years to find the courage to come out and tell people that simple fact. Unless you’ve been there yourself it may be hard to imagine the intense fear the prospect of telling people who you really are can represent.

What if my family disowns me? What if I lose my job? What if my friends abandon me? What if someone attacks me simply because of who I am? These aren’t fleeting thoughts for gay men and women living in the closet. They are persistent, pervasive and powerful.

I’ve been open about who I am for ten years now. My parents still love me. My friends have stuck by my side. The jobs I’ve had in these years since coming out treat their gay employees with equality and respect. I’m lucky in that regard because for many people that is not the case. The freedom I now feel is amazing but that freedom is also limited.

Some facts you may find surprising:

  • Gay people like me can be fired from my job simply for being gay in 29 states.
  • Gay people like me can be denied housing simply for being gay in 30 states.
  • Gay people like me can enter into a loving, legally and equally recognized relationship in only 6 states and DC though none of them enjoy federal benefits or recognition.
  • Gay people like me can not jointly adopt a child in 34 states if they find that special someone and want to start a family.
  • Gay kids in school are not protected from anti-gay bullying and harassment in 33 states.
  • It is even worse in each of these categories for transgender men and women.

With so many gay teens having taken their lives over the past year, it is important for all of us to stand up and say enough is enough. Equality should not have to wait.

For LGBT teens the message must be clear — it gets better. But for adults in the room, we need to be even clearer: it will never get better if you don’t stand up and fight for your LGBT friends and family.

So straight people, today, on National Coming Out Day, tell your gay friends and family that you love them. Tell them you are with them in their fight for equality. Tell them you feel their pain. Tell them whatever you want. But SHOW them you mean it in your actions.

Call your elected officials and let them know that you won’t support anyone who doesn’t support full legal equality for LGBT people right now.

Make a donation to a local LGBT charity or organization. If you can’t find one in your community, consider making a gift to the American Foundation for Equal Rights — the folks fighting to repeal California’s Proposition 8.

Make a commitment to stand up against homophobia whenever you are confronted by it — at work, in the community, or from your friends and family.

Together we can create the change we seek.

Your legally less-than gay friend,

Karl

P.S. You can watch my “it gets better” video below or read my old-school “coming out story” as printed in The Advocate years ago.

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