It’s National #ComingOutDay, as brought to my attention by the queen herself, Ellen DeGeneres. I will be honest, as a straight woman my first thought was, “I want to support this, can I come out as a guava pastelito-aholic?” That doesn’t do much for the cause though, and some might actually take offense to it as I am not completely tone deaf and understand that being bi, gay, trans, or even questioning your orientation and gender and a slew of other identities isn’t easy in 2017 and coming out isn’t a joke, it’s a milestone in many people's lives.
It's #NationalComingOutDay! Come out as gay. Come out as trans. Come out as supporting equality. We need your voices now.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) October 11, 2017
I’ve always been accepting of others despite what you may think by looking at me square on. I am your typical 20-something blonde girl, who looks to have been raised with a silver spoon in her mouth and often times I am judged in that manner, despite it not being my reality. I am not really here to talk about myself though, but more about what a tremendous day this is for many people across the world. I would like to share an experience that I recently had with you, as it was new for me and it helped shed some light on the difficulties even in everyday life that many straight people don’t quite understand, until you get to witness it first hand.
I attended a networking event for business leaders in another city recently, and it was like a breath of fresh air. A room packed to the gills with successful people in their own right, who had worked hard for their accomplishments, and came from all walks of life and business sectors. I had seen this gorgeous woman the day before at another event, snapping pictures of a speaker and minding her own business, I admired her hair and her jacket from afar, thinking that she looked really well put together and professional and wondered who she was and what she did for a living. Well, she was at this event and we finally got to meet!
Making New Friends
I introduced myself, and she gushed with excitement saying that she had seen me published on the Forbes List and was so happy to meet me in person. The more I looked at her, I felt like I had seen her somewhere before but couldn’t quite place it. We all got paired into large groups to complete some fun tasks, and get to know each other better and it was apparent that she and one of the guys from the event were getting a little flirtatious. I actually thought that they knew each other and/or were already dating. When he started asking her questions about her business and such, I realized they didn’t quite know each other very well yet.
I began to realize where I had seen her before, and it was from articles online talking about a modeling agency that only featured LGBTQ models. I had to ask what she did for a living to see if it were truly her, and she said she owned a modeling agency. BOOM! I had placed her, but needed further clarification. I said, “So, what sets your agency apart from all the others?” She giggled and told me that it featured LGBTQ models, and I replied with excitement, “I KNEW IT!” Which she could have taken negatively (as I didn’t 100% know that she was trans, but that she owned the agency) but she didn't. This conversation occurred just above a whisper, but the object of her affection turned his attention to us when we were giggling and asked what she did for a living…
She looked at me, looked at him, paused.. It was like she didn’t know how to answer the question. It’s hard enough meeting new people but in that moment I realized the intensity of trying to explain a situation like that to someone that you just met, wondering if they would be accepting or cruel.
I jumped in, “She created a wildly popular modeling agency that features looks and body types you don’t typically see on the runway!” He seemed satisfied with that answer, and she looked at me with a look I hadn’t seen on someone's face in a while. It was the, “Thank you for coming to my rescue, that could have been awkward” look. It was in that moment, that I realized being someone in her position isn’t always glamorous, it isn’t an easy task to meet new people and especially to date, and it was a situation that I was relatively unfamiliar with.
She taught me a lot of things in just the few hours that we hung out, to be accepting and to help others become more willing to do the same. Not to push someone beyond their boundaries, they will do what feels right to them in their own time. It reminded me that even the strong people, who most times face the world head on with the weight of the world on their shoulders, also sometimes give in to self doubt and the judgement of others.
We are all capable of doing whatever we want, being whomever we want to be, being strong one day and reserved the next. I thought I was doing a good job of being accepting before, but I was wrong in thinking that I somewhat understood the complexities of what it meant to be LGBTQ in everyday life.
All that I can do is learn as much as possible, support the happiness of others, and spread awareness by helping to open the eyes of those who don’t quite understand. Join me in doing so, together we can make America great again.
Candice Galek is the Founder of Bikini Luxe, a featured honoree on the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 List, Inc. Magazine and Social Media Today columnist. A coffee connoisseur and lover of animals big and small (except llamas those things are aggressive!)