National Coming Out Day can be an important day of reflection for those who have come out and those who are thinking about it. Though no one should ever feel obligated or pressured to disclose their identities and sexual orientations, just hearing from prominent figures can make a world of difference as others in the LGBTQ community continue to love and accept themselves for who they are.
On Wednesday, celebrities and activists Laverne Cox and Wilson Cruz teamed up with Barefoot Wine and OUT to share their own coming out experiences as part of the "One Stride, Many Journeys" video series taking place throughout October. The series hopes to illuminate just how valuable the LGBTQ community is to the world.
Cox, who now stars in Orange Is The New Black and proudly advocates for trans rights, kicked off the conversation by recalling not the one, but the two, times she came out.
"I have kind of two coming outs. So, I always knew I liked boys, so I came out as gay first," she said. "I’m from Mobile, Alabama, but I went to Alabama School of Fine Arts. The funny thing about coming out in art school was that everybody was like, 'Yeah, of course you are.'"
Cox added that while the experience was "really a gender identity thing" rather than "a sexual orientation thing," she didn't know it at the time. But a big part of coming out for Cox was talking to her mother about who she really was.
"I came out to my mom first as gay my sophomore year, and she freaked out. And then, when I came out to my mother as trans a few years later, it was after I started my medical transition, she took that easier," Cox said. "This time I was living in NY, I was supporting myself, and so she never said, ‘I don’t want you in my life.' It was just that she didn’t understand and she had issues with the pronoun thing and the name change; it was just like, ‘Girl, you gotta get this together.'"
Thankfully, Cox said they eventually did, with her mom going so far as to gift her a plate with "No. 1 Daughter" written on it. With time, the actress, too, started to embrace herself more, though her journey wasn't without struggles.
"When I finally accepted, when I started medical transition, and said I’m a woman and I’m trans, it was the most empowering thing ever. In the beginning of transitioning, I was so happy to be trans, and then, like a year in, I was like 'I'm done with being trans. I wanna be stealth, I want to blend in, I’m a woman,'" Cox said. "So, I had to get to a point where I was happy being recognizably trans, and that’s why I started the hashtag #TransIsBeautiful. If people are not able to come out to friends and family, come out to yourself, disclose to yourself, and tell the truth first to yourself because that’s the most important thing."
Cruz agreed, saying that before he came out publicly he would practice saying "I'm gay" in the mirror to see "if the world was going to stop and the ceiling was going to fall in on me or something." When neither of those disasters happened, he started relying on friends and the people on My So-Called Life for support.
"I was 19, I was 20, I didn’t know what to do," Cruz said. "I knew one thing. I knew I never saw myself on TV or anyone like me, and I wanted to be that for someone else, and they helped me do that. And I think the most courageous thing I did was ask for help."
Now, Cruz is living his truth and his dream by starring in Star Trek: Discovery.
Be on the lookout for more stories through the "One Stride, Many Journeys" series!