Today, October 11, is National Coming Out Day. The day has its roots in 1987 when half a million people participated in the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. This was the second such demonstration in the nation’s capital and the first display of the NAMES Project Quilt, remembering those who died from AIDS.

As this year’s National Coming Out Day passes, incidents of violence against LGBT individuals seem on the rise, there are new stories almost weekly of LGBT youth committing suicide and more hate speech comes from politicians seeking public office.

Even here in New York City, considered one of the “safe” places to be gay, there’ve been these stories over the past week:

  • In the Bronx, a gay adult and two gay teens were tortured by gang members. This was a particularly brutal attack, called by city officials as one of the worst anti-gay attacks in the city in recent memory. (It’s a rough story to read, but you can check the New York Times article if you wish.)
  • Republican (and Tea Party supported) candidate for New York governor, Carl Paladino, told a gathering in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, yesterday that children should not be “brainwashed” into thinking that homosexuality was acceptable. Paladino also criticized his Democratic opponent, current New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, for marching in a gay pride parade earlier this year. (Read more in a New York Times article.)

Meanwhile, yesterday news came of another teen suicide, this time in Oklahoma. Zach Harrington, 19, took his life just a week after he sat through a city council meeting in Norman, Oklahoma, where one of the items on the meeting agenda was whether or not to acknowledge LGBT History Month. The public debate brought out a lot of hateful comments from the town’s residents to the degree that Harrington’s parents called it “toxic.” (Read more from The Norman Transcript.)

Take National Coming Out Day  as the opportunity to come out for Equality. No matter if your gay or straight, come out for Equality and make sure your voice is heard loud and clear.

The violence, the hateful speech, the suicides need to stop. The message needs to be that everyone is a valued, respected and an equal member of society. All of our elected leaders need to speak out for equality–and those that don’t do not deserve to hold office (remember that come November elections). Candidates like Paladino need a clear message that they won’t be elected if they spread messages of hate.

We are valuable human beings. We contribute to society.

We all deserve to be safe.

We should all be equal.