HONOLULU (KHON2) — Coming out of the closet. It’s a common colloquialism, but most of us have no idea where it comes from.
According to George Chauncey’s comprehensive history of modern gay culture, Gay New York, the closet metaphor was not used by gay people until the 1960s. Before that time, it doesn’t appear anywhere in the records of the gay movement or in the novels, diaries or letters of gay men and lesbians.
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On Oct. 11, 1988, Robert Eichsberg and Jean O’Leary decided to create National Coming Out Day to commemorate the anniversary of the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
The date chosen to honor the bravery of 2SLGBTQ+ individuals who make the, oftentimes, difficult decision to come out and live openly as the person they are. NCOD has now spread across the globe as more and more people are seeing the need to live an authentic life.
Every single person who has made the bold choice to come to friends, family and the world experiences their own unique event. Some people take it in steps: family, friends, work/school, church, casual acquaintances, everyone else. While others simply make the move and immediately live an open life.
The very real fear of discrimination, bullying or judgement is something that can come from literally anyone in our lives. So, coming out can be a very stressful time for some people.
At the University of Hawaiʻi, students and faculty celebrated NCOD for years on their own in various ways. But in 2002, when Camaron Miyamoto became the Director of UH Mānoa’s LGBTQ+ Center, he coalesced things into a community celebration.
For Miyamoto, coming out was something he contemplated and did on his own timeline.
“I guess, when I think back about my story of coming out as a queer man, a gay man, it was a long journey of self-acceptance,” confided Miyamoto. “One where I was uncertain about how I would share that with my family. For me, my family was the most important part of my life; and I only started to grapple with who I was when I was a senior in college.”
Before that point in his life, Miyamoto said he really wanted to do everything he could to conform to my parents’ ideas of a good, straight, Catholic boy. But that just didn’t work for him. That is in terms of his happiness and eventual depression; it simply did not feel right to hide who he was and not live an authentic life.
Miyamoto’s story is not uncommon. There are many people who never come out for fear of losing their family’s love and respect. It is simply easier to push through the facade and deny themselves access to authenticity.
“Eventually, I found out that the way that I could affirm myself and be my full self was to be a gay man and to share that with my family and invite them into that part of me,” revealed Miyamoto. “And now, we’re at the point where all of us can be happily connected; and we have even marched in the Pride Parade together here in Honolulu.”
Miyamoto’s journey to understanding himself is the reason he thinks his work at UH is so important. As he became more and more authentic, he delved deeper and deeper into his exploration of the self throughout his college years.
And he is seeing this openness amongst his students as they develop their ability to explore and find their authentic selves.
“That’s something I’m very excited to see as we have a deeper intellectual understanding,” added Miyamoto.
He said that there are some students from the continent who are coming from situations where they are experiencing personal, social, religious and political persecution. But he’s also noticed that the persecution is not dampening the drive for people to live an authentic life.
“Having the National Coming Out Day Fair on campus gives me a sense of place as a member of the LGBTQ+ community,” said sophomore Gabrielle Huliganga. “This is an event for everyone to hopefully connect with people like them and to find their community. Out of the closet or not, I hope everyone knows that they are supported and loved!”
UH Mānoa celebrated National Coming Out Day on Tuesday, Oct. 10 at the Campus Center Courtyard. It was open to all members of the UH community.
“I was overjoyed to hear that there were events to celebrate pride proudly,” said Lars Kaohu, a freshman at UH Mānoa. “I’m looking forward to meeting and connecting with other students this year.”
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So, as you celebrate National Coming Out Day or as you explore what it means, take the time to reflect on the people in your life and how you can love them for who they are and where they are in life.