Bennett Singer explains why coming out matters—for the LGBTQ community and the straight community alike, and especially for those who are not in a safe position to do so.
Not everyone is in a position where it is wise or safe to come out as gay, lesbian, trans, or bisexual—but for those who can, it is a heroic and revolutionary act. We've known that since Harvey Milk campaigned for gay people to make themselves visible to their families and general public: the more stereotypes are met as actual people, the less we fear what is different. There has been an incredible shift in acceptance over the last 30 years and Bennett Singer, co-author of LGBTQ Stats: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer People by the Numbers, puts it down to two primary things: media visibility and data collecting. Mainstream TV has steadily increased its positive portrayals of LGBTQ people, and prominent personalities like Ellen Degeneres are given prime time spots. Progress can also be measured by statistics, which increasingly reflect those people who have the courage to come out, and their families and friends who can now answer surveys more honestly. "Back in 1985 it was 24 percent of Americans who said they knew an open gay or lesbian person," says Singer. "By last year that had shifted up to 88 percent." Conducting these surveys is only half the power of them however, the rest is in the reporting of those stats. Acceptance works through a cycle of reminders and awareness, says Singer: "Growing awareness and growing reporting of this awareness leads to greater acceptance." Bennett Singer's most recent book is co-authored with his husband, David Deschamps: LGBTQ Stats: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer People by the Numbers.
If you want to know the state of equality in the US, statistics are a good place to start.
How many young Americans identify as 100% heterosexual? Where do LGBTQ people live? In what countries is same-sex activity punishable by prison or death? These are all things the stats can tell you, and Bennett Singer has spent the last few years collating the most recent research to paint a data portrait of LGBTQ life in the US. Creating the book was as eye-opening for Bennett as it will be for readers, from how many same-sex couples are raising children in Mississippi, to the stigma against bisexual people and the knock-on effects that has in health risks. The truth is in the numbers, and understanding what the lives of LGBTQ people are like is the path towards better policy decision and individual interactions. Bennett Singer's most recent book is co-authored with his husband, David Deschamps: LGBTQ Stats: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer People by the Numbers.