This weekend's tragic events in Orlando will linger in our collective consciousness forever, marking the day as the 9/11 of the modern LGBT movement. It also shows why coming out is more important than ever.
Since Outsports started in 1999, we have been proud to bring to light the stories of hundreds of LGBT athletes, coaches and other people in sports. Those stories have inspired thousands more to come out in their own lives, on their own teams. The power of courage to change culture is real.
This weekend was a reminder of how very important coming-out stories are.
We know that nothing changes hearts and minds like people in our lives coming out. Whether it's in a private conversation or in a public declaration, every brave soul who chooses to be their true self shifts the thinking of someone - a friend, a family member, a teammate, a co-worker, sometimes even a complete stranger - on LGBT issues. Witness two posts on the Gaybros forum on Reddit:
An 18-year-old came out to his parents after news of the shootings spread. "They asked me why. I replied, ‘Because that could have been me last night.'"
Wrote another: "I'm tired of living in fear and shame. So I decided to publicly join my brothers and sisters in this fight. Homophobia will not win. Hatred can never win."
While we may look for help outside our community, LGBT people continue to hold the most powerful tools in healing the hate: our own love and courage in the face of fear. Coming out still takes both of these elements. It takes even more of both in the post-Pulse world our community now lives in. We are so blessed to have countless LGBT youth coming out every day in their schools and on their teams. While many LGBT professional athletes, entertainers and politicians continue to let fear dictate their willingness to contribute their courage to the cause, these teenagers and young adults are bravely stepping into our community's leadership roles.
We cannot let fear overcome our community's collective courage. We must continue to use our own voices and our own stories to inspire courage in one another, particularly those living secret lives in fear. Every time we choose to be our truest, most visible selves, we shine more light on the darkness.
We at Outsports are so thankful for all of the people who have shared their stories with us. And we hope more people decide to come out, even if it's just to someone close to them. It changes minds and hearts.
If you want some inspiration, read these coming out stories by LGBT athletes.