Oh hai, it's National Coming Out Day!
I was kind of a late bloomer on the whole sex and relationship thing. I had a couple token girlfriends in grade school and in college, but they were prettty chaste and didn't really amount to much. For the most part I didn't really think about it much, until late in college I began to recognize more of an emotional and physical attraction to other guys. I self-identified as bisexual for awhile (of the "I could fall in love with someone regardless of gender" type) until eventually I realized that, while a noble sentiment, that probably wasn't true for me.
I've never been particularly militant or out-loud-proud, but after having grown up as a teen in the conservative 80s, for awhile I was pretty content with the idea of living a quiet and private life forever, maybe hoping at best to someday have a subdued domestic partnership with someone. That changed in the early 00s when President Bush announced his support for a Federal Marriage Amendment to permanently define marriage between a man and a woman in federal law. My reaction, to be blunt, was a colorful "FUCK YOU" and a realization that I enjoyed neither having my ability to pursue any road to happiness suppressed, nor being used as a political football to whip voters into a frenzy. That was when I began to self-identify fully as gay, and became to come out gradually to many of my friends and acquaintances.
It was some time later, when I was a few years into a long-term relationship, that I decided to come out to my family: my brother first, and then my parents. They were a bit surprised, but fortunately understanding and supportive. Over time, with continuing conversations and a new perspective, they began to understand the importance of things like marriage equality, repeal of DADT, and other issues.
I was very fortunate in how my family handled the situation. (Plus, I was no longer dependent on them when I came out, so didn't have as much at risk.) The sad truth is that not everyone is so lucky. Coming out obviously can be a transformative personal experience; the relief of being known and accepted for who you are can be exhilarating. But the more people come out, and the more people realize they know gay people and that they're just people, not unlike themselves ... Well, maybe that's fewer people who believe that being gay is a choice; fewer parents who kick their kids out of the house or force them into ex-gay ministries; fewer people voting to support anti-gay laws which only hurt a minority and do nothing for anyone else; fewer families who unnecessarily feel shame and disappointment and guilt for their children when they should be feeling love and support.