27 years ago today, I came out of the closet. I was 15. I have written many times about my coming out experience so this year I thought about a different approach. If you haven't read my coming out experience, you can do so here.
27 years ago, I never thought I would be legally married to a man. I never thought I would live in a country where my rights are protected by law. I never thought LGBT+ would be as visible as it is today.
I came out at a time where many gay bars still had blacked out windows.
I have watched our community in that time unite for a March on Washington, fight for marriage equality and human rights around the globe.
I have seen the cracks emerge in our community that threaten us from within: racism, misogyny, trans-phobia, complacency and its own impossible beauty and youth standards.
I once thought that being gay was just one aspect of me, that it didn't matter in the grand scheme of who I am and to an extent that is a true, I don't think I have ever been known just as "gay John."
27 years has taught me that so much of who I am is because I am a gay man. My experience and my sexuality are intrinsically intertwined. My own legal and immigration hurdles have been based on my being a gay man. If I were a straight man, my life would be different, very different.
27 years has taught me how important it is to be counted.
The world today is going backwards and those of us who lived and loved in the pre-marriage equality days understand exactly what this means.
Brunei has introduced death by stoning for homosexuality. Let that sink in. A nation has decided as a whole to actively murder homosexuals or suspected homosexuals.
Chechnya has created concentration and torture camps. Its own leader is imploring parents to kill their own children if they suspect them of being gay.
Malaysia is denying LGBT+ persons even exist..
Brazil elected a President who is instituting reforms to turn the clock back on LGBT and women's' rights. It's own President was elected on a platform that included him admitting he would rather have a dead son than a gay one.
The Trump administration is appointing judges at a pace quicker than the piling indictments; to ensure that evangelical and right wing ideology spreads like a cancer through the judicial system.
The chaos of Brexit has put into doubt what LGBT+ protections the UK would retain in a post EU world. Take for example the protests in Birmingham over LGBT+ inclusive education. Although, well done to Parliament for passing the motion to include it nationwide in England and Wales. Yet, inequalities reigns in Northern Ireland whilst Scotland continues to put the rest of the country to shame with its progressive agenda. A reminder that even in the UK, our equality and rights can change with simply stepping across a border. It is a microcosm of the world we live in.
Scour the news and you will find more and more stories of increasing violence against Trans persons. Homophobic attacks on LGBT+ persons are on the rise throughout the world.
It's a fucking grim picture and it makes me angry.
That said, it is a reminder of why being visible is so important.
It may not feel safe at times. At 42, I shouldn't be worried about passing a group of people and wondering if they are going to scream "Fag" at me or worse. Yet, that is the world I came out in, and that world never went away. I locked myself in a bubble for many years convinced that that world was relegated to the past. It's a good thing I never forgot how to fight.
I stand up today at 42 and I celebrate my Coming Out because I know it will help someone else feel less alone. I know that part of Coming Out is adding to the rich tapestry that is the LGBT+ community. I know that all our stories are woven into the history of oppression and stigma that forged the LGBT+ Civil Rights Movement. I know that that history guides us forward as our struggle for equality continues.
I know that change can only come from standing up and being counted!
John Lugo-Trebble considers this more of a space to engage personal reflections and memories with connections to music and film.