Today is National Coming Out Day, an annual LGBTQ awareness day founded in the US in 1988. The foundational belief was that homophobia thrives in an atmosphere of silence and ignorance. Well, it’s fair to say that in 2017, there is still an over abundance of ignorance in this country. In fact, as a community, we have been forced back a few steps and I don’t believe it’s a mystery to anyone with political sense why that has happened, but the LGBTQ community has certainly not been silent and is not likely to be. For many years, I hid my sexuality, especially during my service in the Air Force for fear of being kicked out of the service. I was afraid of being persecuted. I was afraid my family would disown me and my friends would abandon me. I feared what society would think and how they would treat me. When I came out at age 49, it took a great deal of courage, but it felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders and I wished I hadn’t waited so long. That was nearly four years ago and none of those things that I was concerned about has happened. Sure, there are friends and acquaintances that probably don’t approve and are under the misguided notion that my sexuality is a choice. No one that I’m aware of has gone to the trouble of unfriending me on Facebook, but I bet they’ve passive-aggressively elected not to receive Facebook post notifications from me or simply choose not to like/comment on my posts. I’ve noticed. Now ask me if I lose sleep over it. The important thing is that I have a loving family, a wonderful boyfriend, and a diverse group of amazing friends (old and new) in my life. I am truly blessed! Today, I’m out and proud, gay and fabulous (I better be, I spent enough time in the closet-haha). I feel that I can finally be my authentic self. Coming out is intensely personal and scary as hell. If you are struggling with whether or not to come out, only you can make that decision. You know your family and friends best and whether they will accept you or not. I know that some families have disowned their sons/daughters and/or kicked them out of their homes. Some families have tried to stage interventions, tried to “pray the gay away” or turn their sons and daughters over to some sadistic, so-called preacher or witch doctor for brainwashing. I’d like to believe those are the exceptions and not the rule. If you’re worried that midnight is fast approaching and you haven’t come out because you’re not quite ready, relax. You don’t need a special day to come out. It doesn’t matter if you come out on October 11th or on a Tuesday in the middle of January. If you come out and and no one disowns you or tries to pray your gay away, it’s a good day. If you come out and a few buddies or your great-uncle decide they’re done with you, well, that’s gonna suck, but there will be others waiting to welcome you into the LGBTQ community with open arms and hearts. And, yeah, it may suck to lose a friend or family member, but it’s their loss, not yours. Things will still be okay. So, be out, be proud and loud (not silent).