Greetings beloved trans and queer family, our allies, advocates and accomplices,

Happy National Coming Out Day! I am so happy you are sitting in your authentic self. For those who don’t have the capacity for being out, thank you for staying with us and fighting through the hard times, we hold you near to us.

National Coming Out Day means so many different things to many of us. For many, this is a day of celebration, a joyous milestone of affirming oneself. For others, it is a somber day, reminding us of those who were not able to live in their authenticity or punished for doing so.

The concept of being out is a colonial construct. Before colonization, trans and queer folks existed not as separate, but as part of the larger community. We have, are and will exist despite the ways that our bodies and existences are punished. 

According to the 2017 New Mexico Youth Risk & Resiliency Survey, 15.1% of high school students identify as either lesbian, gay, bisexual or are unsure of their sexual orientation. This number is an indicator that young folks are holding space for their holistic selves.

In the scope of work that I do, I have the immense pleasure of advising the Queer Student Alliance. In working with them, I have found that younger folks are looking to connect with their past. They are looking for ways to honor their past so they can pave a new way forward. They are redefining what “out” means to them and whether, consciously or not, they are remembering their ancestral strength. 

Being out is not a linear thing. Nor is it one-and-done. We come out in multitudes of ways and times. There is a narrative circulating that trans and queer language is becoming “too much.” When I hear this, I recall this quote from Cherrie Morraga: “When you are not physically starving, you have the luxury to realize psychic and emotional starvation.”

Our youth are in such an amazing position of dissecting the language that was handed down to them and choosing to reinterpret it to fit their understanding of self. We have fought hard so that they may have some respite to create space for themselves in ways that others could not. It’s not that they are creating new identities; it is that they are finally creating language to replace what was stolen.

Cultures prior to colonization had language to describe the multitudes of experiences people had. This language was beaten out of us, but our culture was not. It is always important to remember that being trans, being queer, is a culture. We are more than who we love or who we sleep with. When you come out you are embracing your culture — a culture that has been denied, villainized, victimized and scorned for centuries. 

Coming out isn’t done for others. It is done for ourselves, to step into our authenticity. Because we all want to be seen. We all want to be seen for who we know ourselves to be, not for who we are expected to be.

Coming out is an act of resistance against colonial violence, a defiance against systems of oppression. Coming out is stepping into the beautiful light our ancestors shine upon us as we reclaim our rightful space.

Thank you to all those who came before us, and the nameless voices that we have forgotten. In coming out, let us honor those who weren’t able to come out — to fight in memory of those who were taken from us for doing so. As we celebrate National Coming Out Day, let it be a call to action to protect those most marginalized, particularly trans women of color, who experience high rates of societal and systemic violence.

Let us move forward using “we” instead of “I.” Because we will create the world we want to live in, but I cannot do it alone.

Frankie Flores (they/them) is the director of the UNM LGBTQ Resource Center