10/11/2010 06:13 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Come Out, Come Out Whoever You Are

Today I'm coming out. And it's not the first time.

I am coming out as a heterosexual, Mexican-American man who is an ally to the LGBTQ community.
I am coming out as a cousin and uncle who is proud to stand beside my gay family members. And I am coming out as an elected official who believes in full federal equality for all LGBTQ Americans.

And I am asking you to come out gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning, because being out, open, honest about who we are as people is the most effective way to change hearts and minds.

As we have seen in every struggle for civil rights, the support of individuals outside the community is vital.

That's why today, on National Coming Out Day, I am calling on all those who believe in the promise of equal rights for all to come out as supporters, friends, and allies to the LGBTQ community.

Over the past months, four teenagers, two as young as 13 years old, have committed suicide after incessant harassment and bullying by their peers due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation. Bullying does not occur in a vacuum. Friends, classmates, teachers, parents were all witnesses. It is everyone's responsibility, especially as allies, to stand up, speak out, and help change the culture of hate and intolerance that LGBTQ people still face on a daily basis.

Over the past few years, many gains have been made on several fronts in the fight for equality. Public opinion polls continue to shift in the direction of favoring legal protections and equality for LGBTQ Americans. If you turn on the TV, you will find an LGBT character on many of the most popular shows. But the statistics don't lie: 90% of LGBT students have been harassed or assaulted at school; LGBT youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual teens; Over one-third of LGB youth report having tried to commit suicide; And LGB adolescents are 190% more likely to use drugs and alcohol than heterosexual teens.

So today, on National Coming Out Day, let's all do our part to help change these harsh realities for LGBTQ youth. Let's make sure that we don't lose one more young person to a senseless early death. Come out, come out, whoever you are...LGBTQ or ally.