On October 11, the LGBT community celebrates National Coming Out Day and this year we have one more newly out person with whom to celebrate--Puerto Rican boxer Orlando Cruz. When the former Olympian said in interviews last week that he is gay, I know he made a world of difference for so many people.
Orlando joins Ricky Martin, singer Christian Chávez, actress Kenia Gascón and other Latino celebrities who have come out in the past few years. It's not a long list, but it certainly is a distinguished one. Every one of these folks, by saying "I'm gay, I'm Latino and I'm proud" has educated millions of people about the fact that there many LGBT people all around them, not all of whom feel safe enough to come out--yet.
I know some non-LGBT folks don't necessarily understand the concept of gay pride or why coming out is so revolutionary in a person's life. I try to explain that coming out with pride is something that happens at the end of a very long and often lonely journey that consists of years of hiding who you are and worrying that there is something wrong with you. What we celebrate when we come out is the act of letting go of the ugly baggage society tried to hoist on us and instead looking at who we really are as people and being proud of that.
By coming out, Orlando helped to put a face on our community. That's important because there is still so much that people don't know about the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people around them. And this November, in four states, voters will be asked to decide on whether a gay person can marry the person they love. Orlando's coming out helps to make what's at stake more tangible.
Lots of brave men and women who are not famous are also making the decision every single day to come out to their families or friends or even colleagues and I applaud and embrace them for their courage.
Coming out, if you are able to do so safely, is a gift to yourself, those who love you (because you can now have an honest relationship) and to the larger LGBT and Latino community. In fact, many recent studies and polls have shown that Latinos are supportive of the gay people in their lives, and support equality for all. A campaign was even started, Familia es Familia (familiaesfamilia.org), to help Latinos talk about LGBT issues. As the campaign and others point out, Latinos feel strongly that family is important, that everyone matters and we don't reject our own family members for being gay or transgender.
In an interview this weekend on the Telemundo sport show "Titulares," Cruz looked strong and confident, talking about his family, whose support he credits with being able to come out. In the ring, Orlando Cruz uses his fists to win lots of fights. Watching that handsome, happy man throw his arms around his equally proud mom, on national television, as he spoke about the joy of being honest, was, to me, the best sports event ever.