Jason Howard Green

Jason Howard Green

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Phoenix Pride Presents: Out Day at the Zoo

Today's Out Day at the Zoo was phenomenal. Phoenix Pride hosted an essay contest and received hundreds of submissions but only six individuals were honored with the opportunity to share their coming out stories. Also, celebrities ANT (Celebrity Fit Club and Last Comic Standing) and Heather Matarazzo (The Princess Diaries and The L Word) were present and they shared their coming out stories.

The entire day was an emotional one. Prior to attending the Out Day event, I was joined at the zoo by my sister & brother-in-law and my niece. Lisa, David and I walked around the Phoenix Zoo while little Olivia oowed and awwed at the giraffes, the pink flamingos and the elephants. I haven't seen my niece in several weeks so it was a thrill to be able to spend a little time with them. We parted ways as I headed in to hear coming out stories and they took Olivia off to play in the pool. I'll tell you why I mention this later.

Coming out stories (well atleast the ones I heard today) are powerful, empowering and inspiring. I heard the story of a lady whose mom took her own life because she could not bear the thought of raising a same-gender loving child. I heard the story of transgender individual whose already difficult struggle of self-acceptance was manifested into a whirlwind of craziness. Her decision to transition genders was disclosed to all of her family without her permission by her vindictive ex-wife. I heard the story of a gender fluid individual that struggled with self identifying and shared that coming out will be a lifetime endeavor for her.

In the midst of the stories of isolation and disappointment, there were also the stories from our youth that give me hope. There was the story from young Donald Smith who was encouraged to come out thanks to having an out and proud gay mayor. He now serves his community by mentoring others. I also heard the story of a high school kid that is so comfortable with his sexuality that he doesn't care about acceptance from his peers. As we are just on the eve of a crisis of LGBT teen suicides, it was encouraging to hear stories like these.

I have to thank ANT and Heather, our on hand celebrities for being out and proud and sharing their stories. ANT said it best, "Our visibility is our greatest strength. If we are not seen we are insignificant. If we are seen we are significant." It is easier for people to hate what they do not know. So I applaud celebrities that come out of the celluloid closet and live their truth. Those that come out know that it could put their careers in jeopardy but they do so because living an authentic life is better than living a life full of lies.

At the end of the day I had to reflect on my journey since coming out. I have family that accepts me and loves me for who I am - gay and all. When I came out to my mom she told me, "if you're happy then I'm happy for you." I reflected on trek around the zoo earlier today with niece Olivia who loves her gay uncles. I love the fact that she is growing up in an environment where she is learning to love and accept and not hate and prejudge. I reflected on my own personal journey of self acceptance and I relish in the fact that the out person I am today is so much happier than the closeted person I was years ago.
I'm out in every aspect of my life - on the job, to my family, and to my church (when I do go). I'm here to tell you that being out is a wonderful thing. And I'm speaking from experience. Out is freedom. And that's what I want for all my LGBT brothers and sisters. So here's to freedom. For those that have not gotten there yet, I wish you well on your journey. Tomorrow is National Coming Out Day and if you have not taken that step yet this may be your chance. Take that step.

1 comment:

Courtney said...

Beautifully said, Jason!!! I was so touched also by the amazing coming out stories. Such stories of courage, LOVE, and striving to live that authentic life. Embracing ourselves. I have a 5 yr old niece, and I am so happy she is being raised understanding she has 2 aunts. Just like you said, that only will lead to greater self-acceptance, open-mindedness, and connection to LOVE. Here's to all the amazing LGBT folk who have had the COURAGE to come out. :)