Oct. 11 is National Coming Out Day, a holiday that has been recognized for the last 32 years. The day honors the importance of LGBTQ+ people being able to live their truth and safely self-identify, as well as recognizes the value of those who consider themselves allies choosing to “come out.”
For 2020, in recognition of the racially turbulent and chaotic year we’ve all endured, we’re looking back to a message penned in 2017 by Alicia Garza, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Movement. In honor of National Coming Out Day, Garza was asked to answer the question, “If you could send a message to a former version of yourself, what would you write?”
“The goodness of the world only prevails when we are courageous enough to defend it,” she wrote. “To fight for it as if it is the only thing that matters. It is the only thing that matters.”
Garza told her younger self not to be subdued into silence by others who will doubt her. “You will be told that you are wrong. That you are young and don’t know the way that things are. They will tell you that you don’t know what’s really good for you,” she wrote. “But you must keep going. Your destiny is yours and yours alone to realize. Only you can meet your destiny and it is designed only for you. So keep going.”
One of the most important aspects of Garza’s letter is freedom:
“Lastly, no matter what, live free. You will not be free, but you must live as if you are, because freedom is coming. Live free as if your life depends on it, because it does. Your dignity depends on it. And you must defend your dignity at all costs.”
Garza’s identity as a queer woman of color has had a large impact on her work with BLM. She emphasizes on BLM’s website that when people say “Black Lives Matter,” it must encompass all Black people and not just the Black men killed by police:
“[BLM] goes beyond the narrow nationalism that can be prevalent within some Black communities, which merely call on Black people to love Black, live Black and buy Black, keeping straight cis[gender] Black men in the front of the movement while our sisters, queer and trans and disabled folk take up roles in the background or not at all. Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, Black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum. It centers those that have been marginalized within Black liberation movements. It is a tactic to (re)build the Black liberation movement.”
To read Garza’s original letter, click here.
National Coming Out Day was created in 1988. It commemorated the anniversary of the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, which took place one year earlier. Robert Eichberg and Jean O’Leary founded the holiday. Eichberg, who died in 1995 from AIDS complications, was a founder of “The Experience,” a personal growth workshop. O’Leary founded Lesbian Feminist Liberation and served as co-director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. She died in 2005 of lung cancer.