Photo and story by Wendy Anderson / Contributing Writer
Wednesday was National Coming Out Day, an important day for the LGBTQ community to celebrate coming out and those that fought and spoke out for equality. On that day in 1987, people marched on the nation’s capital to demand civil rights for the LGBTQ community.
Those rights included legal recognition of same-sex relationships, repeal of sodomy laws, a congressional civil rights bill for LGBTQ people, funding for AIDS/HIV research, reproductive justice and an end to apartheid in South Africa. This year marks the 29th anniversary for the day, which started being recognized in 1988.
Events and festivals were held all around the United States to celebrate National Coming Out Day, including a table at MTSU with information set up for students. East Nashville’s Lipstick Lounge hosted another event Wednesday night, and it was part of a larger project called “Tell Your Coming Out Story,” which was hosted by True Stories Let Loose and the Tennessee Equality Project.
Guests were given the opportunity to share their coming out stories, which were recorded and produced by local storyteller Kristen Chapman Gibbons.
Gibbons began sharing her own stories years ago and realized how impactful they could be for others, so this project attempts to help not only those in the LGBTQ community, but also their allies.
Scott and Ned Williams, a married couple who attended the event, have been together for 14 years. Ned shared his story for the project, and his husband, Scott, shared the importance of telling stories to not only connect with and help others going through similar things, but also to help the individual who’s sharing.
“It can really be a healing process,” Scott said.
In explanation of how he felt when he came out, Scott added, “I got to be who I finally wanted to be.”
Gibbons agreed on the importance of sharing, talking about how some of the people who share their stories may not realize how traumatic their experience has been until they speak it out loud.
“You think your experience is so common when it isn’t … so, it’s good for the person who tells and good for the person who hears,” Gibbons said.
Ned claimed that he felt compelled to share his story because it was different.
“My story is a bit unique (because) I have never actually come out,” Scott said. “I just went from saying, ‘I’m going on a date with Jane’ to ‘I’m going on a date with John.'”
According to Gibbons and Scott, the Lipstick Lounge offered an appropriate atmosphere for the event: a safe space and platform to help the LGBTQ community get connected.
“It’s my hope that straight people — allies — feel compelled to stand with us and to fight some of the stuff we have to fight all the time,” Gibbons said.
In November, Gibbons will choose nine storytellers to share their experiences onstage in front of a live audience. She also hopes to visit and present at MTSU in the near future.
More information about the Lipstick Lounge and Tell Your Coming Out Story can be found here.
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