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    Posted December 4, 2013 by
    Longmont, Colorado
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    The written word: Your personal essays

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    Why We Need More Coming Out Stories


    As more and more articles pop up about celebrities coming out as non-heterosexual, I have also become increasingly aware of the number of article comments that ask, “Why should it matter? Why is this newsworthy?”


    Certainly, your sexual orientation is your own, it’s private, and in no way is everyone obligated to publicly disclose their sexual orientation. I don’t think this is the core of the argument though, and it’s directly related to why I think we need more coming out stories.


    It’s true: I personally believe we have made leaps and bounds when it comes to LGBTQ rights and awareness. We are seeing some amazing stories of love, empowerment, and downright norm-shattering across the world.


    I also believe we still have a long way to go.


    I get a little irked when I see comments that almost minimize the journey of publicly expressing one’s sexual orientation when it is non-heterosexual. Asking “Why should it matter?” is a complex question with a non-simple answer. But I hope I can shine some light into why I believe it does matter.


    What I believe we have been battling through for the past few decades is this idea that one person could have feelings for someone of the same gender or sex (or even both/neither gender or sex).


    I believe it is because of this stigma—this foreign and strange idea that if you’re not attracted to the opposite sex that there’s something wrong or “different” about you—that has boxed and terrified so many people into hiding their sexual orientation that they become caged and unable to live an authentic life.


    We have scared one another into having feelings for only one sex—the opposite sex—therefore establishing a norm of heterosexism. We are slowly working through this, but again, I think we have more work to be done. And you know what I think is helping this progress? These stories of coming out, especially from celebrities.


    No, their sexual orientation shouldn't matter. But you know what does matter? Having more LGBTQ role models for everyone who may still feel oppressed and who still hide their sexual orientation. I didn't come out until I was 26 years old, and I believe one of the biggest barriers I faced in coming out was identifying with another gay person who I saw as a role model.


    Our society should be void of shame and guilt about sexual orientation. The old argument that sexual orientation is a choice is over. If you believe it is a choice, change your sexual orientation for half a year and let us know how that goes. But what we know—through experience and even scientific studies—is that being non-heterosexual is not a choice and not something to be ashamed of.


    So I will continue to applaud all of the public figures who have come out, and I will continue to applaud the companies that continue to believe this is newsworthy. Do I think “coming out” will be newsworthy forever? I hope it won’t come to that. But I believe in this crucial moment in human history, these stories will continue to play a role in changing our societal, social, and cultural beliefs about individuals who identify as non-heterosexual.


    We cannot live authentic lives so long as we insist that people must be a certain way. Let us challenge each other to drop the discrimination, drop the expectations, drop the heterosexism, and to relentlessly accept one another for who they are.

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