Oct. 11 is National Coming Out Day, a holiday that has been recognized for nearly 30 years. The day honors the importance of LGBTQ people being able to live their truth and safely self-identify, as well as recognizes the value of those who consider themselves allies choosing to "coming out."
This year, Logo and NewNowNext asked 40 prominent figures in the LGBTQ community to write letters to their younger selves, answering the question, "If you could send a message to a former version of yourself, what would you write?"
Among those who penned messages was Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, who identifies as a queer woman and whose spouse identifies as transgender and biracial.
"The goodness of the world only prevails when we are courageous enough to defend it," Garza writes. "To fight for it as if it is the only thing that matters. It is the only thing that matters."
Garza tells her younger self not to be subdued into silence by others who will doubt her.
"You will be told that you are wrong. That you are young and don't know the way that things are. They will tell you that you don't know what's really good for you," she writes. "But you must keep going. Your destiny is yours and yours alone to realize. Only you can meet your destiny and it is designed only for you. So keep going."
One of the most important aspects of Garza's letter is freedom:
"Lastly, no matter what, live free. You will not be free, but you must live as if you are, because freedom is coming. Live free as if your life depends on it, because it does. Your dignity depends on it. And you must defend your dignity at all costs."
To read Garza's full letter, click here.
Garza's identity as a queer woman of color has had a large impact on her work with BLM. She emphasizes on BLM's website that when people say "Black Lives Matter," it must encompass all Black people and does not just mean Black men killed by police:
"[BLM] goes beyond the narrow nationalism that can be prevalent within some Black communities, which merely call on Black people to love Black, live Black and buy Black, keeping straight cis Black men in the front of the movement while our sisters, queer and trans and disabled folk take up roles in the background or not at all. Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, Black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum. It centers those that have been marginalized within Black liberation movements. It is a tactic to (re)build the Black liberation movement."
Last week Garza spoke at the University of California at Berkeley for an event sponsored by the gender and women's studies department. She encouraged young activists to "keep fighting," The Daily Californian reported.
"The world is a hard place to be in right now, and if you're like me there are days when you just wanna curl up in bed … and hope that it all goes away," she said, according to Daily Cal. "So it does mean something to me that you decided that you could do one more time and get up and come out and be a community with us."
Garza founded BLM with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. The now national movement began as a simple hashtag after Garza ended a Facebook post with the phrase, "Black Lives Matter."
In honor of National Coming Out Day, Garza was joined by other notable members of the LGBTQ community who chose to write letters, including Sarah Katie Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD. Ellis, a lesbian, encourages her younger self to find strength and break barriers against the odds.
"The status quo wasn't built for a lesbian woman like yourself — so break it. You don't see lesbian women in the executive suite, on TV, or in the news, so be your own role model," Ellis says. "Destroy the barriers that you encounter and people's misconceptions about what you can't do. Fight."
"You don't see a path for yourself, so build your own," Ellis writes. "The only rules or roadblocks are the ones you set for yourself."
To read Ellis' full letter, click here.
National Coming Out Day was created in 1988. It commemorated the anniversary of the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, which took place one year earlier. Robert Eichberg and Jean O'Leary founded the holiday. Eichberg, who died in 1995 from AIDS complications, was a founder of "The Experience," a personal growth workshop. O'Leary founded Lesbian Feminist Liberation and served as co-director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. She died in 2005 of lung cancer.
This year, for National Coming Out Day, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) released "Five Pieces of Advice for Coming Out as Bi, Pan, Queer or Fluid."