Today is the 22nd annual National Coming Out Day. It’s when college students across the country (the Brits take their turn tomorrow) write messages of hope in chalk on the sidewalks in the quad, only to see them washed away with the rain. And while I have no peer reviewed research to back this up, it’s probably also the beginning of a springbok-like migration of LGBT youth to the streets and shelters, who use Oct. 11 to come out to the friends and family only to be promptly kicked out of their homes. That’s not me trying to be funny; it’s the sad truth of what coming out still winds up meaning to so many. But it’s not just young people: Gay adults face their own stigmatization for simply sharing something about themselves with the world. Gay kids killing themselves. Getting beat up for not fitting gender norms. Getting attacked by state officials for simply being born a certain way. Losing their military jobs for being honest. So many reasons not to come out. And yet, we must. There is nothing to hide. No shame to harbor. But as we insist members of our own community leave the closet and share themselves with the world, we must also have their backs. When their parents abandon them; when their ex-spouses try to keep them from seeing their kids; when their friends are suddenly too cool to hang out. We must be the ones who extend a hand or a shoulder or an ear. So many people are saying “It gets better.” It will, for some. Not all. When you came out, did it?

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