Coming out can be an emotional, life-changing experience for anyone in the LGBTQ+ community. On Sunday, Oct. 11, we celebrated National Coming Out Day. The holiday was first founded in the United States in 1988 by Robert Eichsberg and Jean O’Leary, in honor of the first anniversary of the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.
Since that day, the world has progressed exponentially, but many of these changes have only happened in the last 20 years and the fight for true equality is nowhere near over. Many people still face discrimination on a daily basis, whether it’s for their sexuality, race, gender, disabilities or social statuses.
Third-year California State University, Monterey Bay student Jiya Day is a Black bisexual woman with mild spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. She explained cerebral palsy occurs when there is a lack of oxygen to the brain before, during or after birth.
Day was born early and while in the hospital there were moments when she had a lack of oxygen. “I’ve had it my whole life. For people that don’t have disabilities they see it has something impacting my life, but this has been my whole life, and I don’t know anything different,” she said. “There’s ways that other people perceive me that can impact certain things in my life that have to do with other people, but as far as my day to day routine, I’m just living my life.”
Growing up in a world still learning to accept people for their differences can certainly be a difficult experience. Day said coming to terms with each of her different identities has brought upon different waves of emotions.
“Coming to terms with being Black has been the easiest, what hasn’t been as easy is coming to terms with my disability and sexuality,” she said. “You internalize a lot of stuff when you don’t grow up seeing representation of yourself, when you hear micro-aggressions every day when you have to go to school, and many other things. It seems like I’m very secure in all my identities, but with everything happening as of lately, I want to break down sometimes.”
During President Barack Obama’s administration run, the United States made more progress in accepting the LGBTQ+ community than it had throughout the rest of our history. However, since President Donald Trump’s election, there have been severe steps back on all of the changes the Obama administration enacted towards the LGBTQ+ community specifically.
“I love who I am, but sometimes it can be hard. It feels like carrying a 100 pound weight while also walking on hot rocks. I’m not expecting everyone to understand the struggles of ableism, biphobia, and racism, but people can at least try to be a little empathic,” Day said.
Being a LGBTQ+ person of color with a disability comes with many hardships. Day explained some of the struggles she has had to face throughout her life and related them to intersectionality theory. “What I can say is that no room feels 100% safe.”
Day said there are times where it seems everyone around her is accepting of her identities, but the moment she “acts a certain way” people tend to give her the side-eye, showing their true colors and negativity around disabled individuals.
“As much as my being may make other people uncomfortable, I can never stop being me because once I stop that means that oppressive society has won,” she said. “I refuse to let people think they have defeated me.”
While she has a unique situation, Day exhibits nothing but positivity and an uplifting attitude on life. She explains being a queer person of color with a disability, “you always have a sense of community. I have gained a lot since coming to terms with all of my identities.”
Having pride in one’s identity is becoming more and more prevalent and people no longer have to feel shame about their identity. Holidays such as National Coming Out Day help celebrate the importance of acceptance and being comfortable in your own skin.
Whether someone is out publicly or privately, National Coming Out Day was and will continue to be a prominent day for many individuals in the LGBTQ+ community.
“School for me has been so crazy lately that I didn’t get to celebrate myself, but I think it is a really important day, especially for people that are not out yet, so they know that they are not alone,” said Day.
Everyone’s experience with discovering their sexual identities is unique. Some people always knew, other people figured it out later in their life, and some people are still figuring it out.
“I don’t want to steal Demi Lovato’s answer, but Cruel Intentions was a sexaul awakening – for lack of a better phrase for me – wait no, Monica and Quincy in Love in Basketball was my sexual awakening,” said Day.
Day recalled that loving oneself is of utmost importance when addressing their identities and sexuality. “Just remember that you deserve happiness and never let anyone diminish your light.”