Happy National Coming Out Day to those of you who have been out for years, those who are just inches from the closet and to those who aren’t quite at the right spot to do so.

We would like to spend this day reflecting on those who have shared their stories with us for the past year and thank them for having the strength to help others by reliving their experiences.

Cory: “You’re going to Hell, but I’m still your friend.”
Growing up in a traditional community, he left to finally figure out who he was.

Zach: Gay man attributes TV shows, internet to figuring out his sexuality
He does not recommend Glee.

Samm: Strong, accepting family dynamic offsets bullying in school
Her classmates and teachers reacted poorly to her walking in one day holding hands with her now-ex. From harassment to getting spit on, she overcame those who hurt her and found resilience in those at home.

Angela: She came out THREE times
She was faced with challenges to remain steadfast in a heterosexual-presenting relationship. After coming out as bi, her boyfriend at the time became uncomfortable and she redacted it, until college.

Heidi: “I set my preferences for both men and women, and it was terrifying.”
She started feeling attraction toward the same gender in middle school but didn’t come to terms with it until college.

Kev: “A psychologist asked me if I liked men or women, and I didn’t have an answer.”
He’s known for most of his life that he was gay but never openly talked about it unless he had to.

Krystal: “His main concern was my safety. He didn’t care about my sexuality.”
Stan: “Wait a minute — do you know I’m in love with you?”
She snuck around the city wearing feminine clothes as a teenager, avoiding confrontation with her family. When she and her father crossed paths one day, all he wanted was to be sure she was safe. Then they met when a business opportunity arose.

Irene: “I thought this is just how kids are.”
After spending time with overly sexual peers, she thought she was falling behind.

Art: “Our relationship has been virtually nonexistent ever since.”
After sending a letter coming out to his father, whom he rarely spoke to, their relationship didn’t get much better.

Quill: “It’s really astounding to me how much one hormone can change you.”
After finally identifying gender dysphoria in his late teens, Quill began his transition.

Ashe: “The more time we spent together, the more I saw myself.”
A 6-year-old helped them identify who they truly were.

Aaron: “I push to educate people and make sure we have a society that’s more accepting for people to come out.”
After having an accepting family growing up, he now sees it in his duties to be sure others can, one day, have it as easy as he did.

Nico: “They told me they would never see me as anything other than their daughter.”
After moving from a “ghost town,” they became acquainted with a new group of friends at school that helped them figure out their sexuality.

Cody: “If this is what it takes to get to heaven, I’d rather just go to hell and be true to my morals.”
After an unwanted encounter with a peer and a religious upbringing, he buried his attraction to the same sex until he came to a new and more welcoming community — college.

Luke: “It felt like my whole body completely betrayed me.”
As a tomboy growing up in a heavily Catholic household, his perception of reality and his own identity changed at puberty. He couldn’t do anything he enjoyed anymore because of these limitations.

Drew: “I’m not crazy — this is how I felt my whole life.”
He recalls being as young as 4 years old when he started bunching up socks and putting them in his pants and wished on Troll dolls that certain body parts would grow.

And thank you to the many of you who have shared but are not listed here. You are equally as important.

Come (Out) as You Are wouldn’t be real if it wasn’t for the folks in the LGBTQ community who take that step and tell the world, “this is who I am.” Take it in stride and own it. And for those of you who aren’t in the right place to come out just yet, your time will come. Take these stories as a testament to what you hear all the time — it does get better. Let these people show you and give you strength to, one day, tell the world this is who you are.

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