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When I think of the fight for human and civil rights that many Americans who are not part of our community are waging, I am amazed at our community’s propulsive progress. Our LGBT community has dominated the “social issues” news for several years, moving us, so to speak, to the front of the line. We could be called the “new kids on the block” in that we have been fighting legal battles for just a few years compared to other communities. So, I don’t mean were new from the standpoint that we’ve just come into being. We’ve been here - from the beginning, as the Bible documents - invisible, though, we may have been. I think the old adage that “we are everywhere” is true.

National Coming Out Day

What the National Coming Out Day Wrought — Carl Matthes

How else can the tremendous turnaround in public acceptance for and the open awareness of our community be explained?

Of course, some of my opinion has been formed by the fact that I live in one of the bluest areas of one of the bluest States in America. Those living in other places, may not share my thoughts.

In about 50 years, LGBT folk built a tremendous network of support institutions; fought vigorously over legal matters and in the courts; became important to the political process and took on HIV/AIDS. In addition, many of us took the difficult step of coming out to our families and at our jobs.

When we began taking those steps collectively, society, as a whole, began to notice. I think people, in general, discovered that they were already working with LGBT folk. They already knew and accepted many of us as individuals.

In 1987, October 11 was chosen as “National Coming Out Day,” a collective effort at becoming more visible. This collective action shed new light on our families. Were you surprised, like me, to find that other members of your family were LGBT? Also, as we gained strength as individuals, when a public conversation about the LGBT movement occurred, we already had close and good friends among the straight population. More often than not, we found a receptive friend or relative supporting our desire to “come out.” Many of us found that we were not rejected (or beat-up) by our friends and family.

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I think this grassroots coming-out concept continues to play an immense role in our acceptance level by society today. If we hadn’t stood up for ourselves, over these last 28 years, where would we be today?

It is very depressing to see, even today, 150 years after the end of the Civil War, African-Americans, along with fellow Americans of all colors, still fighting to remove the vestiges of that stain on the honor of our nation: slavery. Shame on those government institutions which still want to “honor” the symbols of and the service in the illegal and defeated Confederate Army. Also, The politicos in too many States are busying themselves trying to stop citizens from voting. Especially minority citizens.

And America’s women? 2015 marks the 33rd anniversary of the demise of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) at the hands of state legislatures and Phyllis Schafly, who mobilized conservative women in opposition. (It was 1920 when women gained the right to vote nationally.) After President Obama’s historic election wins in 2008 and 2012, perhaps it will be 2016 when a woman rises to the Presidency of the United States.

However, political victories are no guarantee of social improvement or acceptance in the quest for equal civil and human rights.

We need to remember what our LGBT elders and pioneers did. We cannot take for granted our rising position in the move toward equality under the law. We need to be vigilant at every corner and curve of the legal maze facing LGBT Americans. We need to demand protection in our jobs and workplaces. We need to fight against the concept that our achieving acceptance and equality under the law, somehow becomes a war on Christianity. We need to fight against those who would say we don’t deserve families, children or marriage; or any of the rights and privileges of being a human!

Those who have found a worldly faith, which they believe explains our earthly existent and offers life after death, know that many LGBT folk share such a faith. LGBT folk are found among the faithful of every religion - especially the Christian religion.

I’m looking forward to the time when we can see that everyone in our country receives the guarantee of equality under the law.

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Carl Matthes