Sunday, October 13, 2013

Coming Out Day 2013

Last Friday was Coming Out Day. Here is a short summery of Coming Out Day in Leiden, The Netherlands. The text is in Dutch. I'm proud to be part of this organization.

The idea is to raise awareness and help create a safer environment for LGBT people. Some of you may wonder, do we need to? I happened to be at a school that day to talk to the kids about discrimination, being different, and LGBT issues. According to the statistics there should be close to 100 gay students at that school. They knew about 4. Of course at that age a lot of people are not aware yet that they are gay. During puberty there is a lot to explore and sexuality is only on aspect of your personal development during that age.

The stereotypes we see in the media don't help. I still can't think of any Disney movie that has a gay main character. Most gay people in tv shows are quite extreme. Else it doesn't make good tv, right? But that is what people see and think they should be if they are gay. Most of us LGB and even T people don't stand out like that. Most of us are really boring to be honest. We are normal. We just happen to love someone we can't reproduce with. Though luck. But those kids don't know that yet. They don't know gay people are normal and can have any shape possible, just like the rest of the world.
When I was growing up I somehow had this idea that a transsexual was a desperate gay man who wanted to be with another man so much he was willing to give up his penis in order to get it. Crazy of course, but that's what I thought. So there was no way I would apply the idea of transexuality to myself. It took me 33 years to figure out that transsexuals can go from female to male as well and, yes, I am one too. I was surprised when I found out. Me? Really? But I'm... Okay, I might not be the most boring person on the planet but I'm not some deranged freak, right? Right. I'm not. And most other trans or gay people aren't either. I was actually a bit shocked to realize I had been thinking that way. That someone like me, who considered himself open minded and gay friendly would still hold on to such backwards stereotypes. But I did. Because I didn't know it could be different. And I'm not the only one who has this problem. That's why education is so important.
Around that age about half of the kids have figured it out though. They do know they are gay but choose not to come out. Why? They don't feel safe. They are afraid they will be treated differently on grounds that are not relevant to the situation. Yes, that's the definition of discrimination. To treat someone differently on grounds that are not relevant. They are afraid they will be bullied, they will be cast out. Some of the kids respond there is no need to be afraid, that the kids who did come out aren't being bullied either so they should be fine too. But it's not that simple. Because someone in a different class who is a few years older doesn't get picked on doesn't mean you'll be fine. It also doesn't mean your parents are going to be okay with it. Or the kids at soccer. Etc. Education starts at school, but safety is much bigger then that. I'm hoping we can educate the next generations and wipe out homophobia that way but it will take time. What I do know is that there are a whole bunch of kids right now that know that transsexuals are not just desperate, deranged gay men but look just like normal people. I hope I will have helped at least one person to come to terms with who they are just a bit easier and in less then 33 years time. I know my life would have been quite different if we had had Coming Out Day when I was growing up.

If you live in or near Leiden and you want to be part of the movement we are actively looking for more people to help us educate the next generations. More details here.

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