Alaskans speak out on National Coming Out Day

In addition to the many individuals who came out to friends and relatives on Monday, October 11, several LGBT Alaskans representing local organizations spoke out about National Coming Out Day and the importance of supporting queer youth by providing safe spaces and passing equal rights.

Johnathan Jones of Identity, Inc. explained on Channel 11 why the National Coming Out Day message is even more critical this year:

Anne Marie Moylan and Scott Turner, co-chairs of Identity, wrote an editorial in the Anchorage Daily News: True equal rights could stop harassment. They describe recent attacks on gays and teen suicides from anti-gay bullying, and ask what effect the lack of LGBT equal rights has on creating this atmosphere of violence.
The events of recent weeks beg the question: What is it in our culture that says that gay lives are worthless? Gay teens commit suicide because others tell them their lives are not worth living. And homophobes go so far as to verbally and physically attack gay people, believing their actions are perfectly justified.

As chairs of Identity Inc., the organization that runs the Gay and Lesbian Community Center in Anchorage, we take the view that political inequality is a key piece of the problem. The lack of legal protections for the gay community both in Alaska and across the country legitimizes anti-gay bias and harassment.

The kind of virulent homophobia that leads to hate crimes and teen suicides is not limited to the Outside -- just recall the sea of red shirts at the Loussac Library when the Anchorage Assembly considered Ordinance 64. That Mayor Sullivan vetoed the ordinance means that right now in Anchorage, we can be fired from our jobs, kicked out of our apartments, or refused service in a restaurant based on our sexuality and have no legal protections.

By letting discrimination slide, the city of Anchorage is saying that gay and transgender Alaskans are less valuable members of the community.

This National Coming Out Day, we say that it is time for things to change -- time for Anchorage to stand for fairness and equality.
Read the full Compass piece and leave supportive comments HERE.

Scott T. Schofield, director of Out North, wrote a letter to the Anchorage Press:
I have heard that Alaskans get things done. I have heard that Alaskans pull together, crossing social boundaries to get through tough times. We must take action against this tragic possibility facing our young people, a possibility that no doubt many of us have faced down in our own families, whether gay, perceived to be gay, or were bullied for other reasons. At the very least, we must stop being silent about it. Coming out is for everyone: Come out as an ally, come out as conflicted but accepting of all people, come out as pro-life and therefore anti-bullying, come out and make a majority that does not tolerate hate, nor the tactics of shame, nor the senseless death of good people. You never know how what you say can affect a person: say your support for a hate-free community out loud.
Schofield offers Out North as a safe space for the people of Anchorage, especially LGBTQ youth, and adds a personal message:
I do not write this to capitalize on a disturbing national trend. I write this to break my own silence on an issue rooted deep in my own heart. When my own identity issues brought me to seriously consider suicide as a teen, a place very much like Out North kept me alive: They told me I was okay, and gave me an outlet for my otherwise destructive energy. I owe it to the child I was then to speak to children and adults now. I am grateful that I am alive to do so, and grateful that I have something to offer. I offer it sincerely.

Out North's motto is Art for Everyone, No Exceptions. Whatever your identity, but especially if you are an LGBTQ teen who doesn't know why to stick around for tomorrow, you are welcome here. We encourage you to explore your own mind, to work and laugh with people who are different from you, to learn how there is strength in diversity. We are holding a place for you in our community, and we are excited for you to fill it, whoever you are. We invite you to drop in from 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., every day after school. We have a drug-free space to do your homework, create your own art, volunteer your time, and share your experiences with new friends. We want to know you.

But seriously, if you feel isolated, we beg you to let your first act—before your final act—be to come see us, tell us your story, and let us tell you that you are valued.
Read the full letter HERE.

Thanks to these LGBT Alaskans for speaking out on National Coming Out Day!

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