After The Road Ahead Summit we sat down with our panel moderator, and OUT Executive Editor, R. Kurt Osenlund to talk about the importance of National Coming Out Day and what it means for LGBTQ culture.
What does National Coming Out Day mean to you?
For me it is a reminder that visibility and openness about our unique identities are the foremost tools we have in normalizing marginalized people and their experiences. It's also a day for people to reflect on what was both terrifying and liberating for them, and to encourage those who have yet to do so that they'll be ok... and there's a whole community waiting to support them.
At what point in your life did you recognize your identity as LGBTQ was an advantage for you in your career and industry?
I went from running a community newspaper to contributing to major culture outlets to working at OUT, and it felt like a very natural progression, personally and professionally. Around my mid 20s I realized that you truly can't write well, or thrive in any creative field, if you're not bringing your full self to it. And when I was still a full time film critic I realized that if I wasn't writing about how a movie impacted or reflected cultural issues, I wasn't as engaged in my work. Art projects our world back at us (or at least the best art does), and when OUT came along, right before I turned 30, I was fully invested in that mind set and ready to bring my full self to the magazine.
What does it mean to you be an out and proud creative in your industry? What challenges have you faced?
It means that I get to do what i love without personal compromise, and as a storyteller, interested in sharing and showcasing the lives of other queer people, it means that there is an inherent element of activism in my work. Which is an enormous privilege. Some people feel that they haven't done enough in this climate because they haven't been to enough rallies. If i'm doing my job right, then every story I send to press should be a rally cry in some way.
Most of the challenges I've faced have been internal, based on toxic traditions and ideals imposed by society, be they about masculinity, vulnerability, intolerance etc. But my challenges as a cis white male, in the grand scheme, are minimal compared to many.
If you could name three key elements as the sources of your inspiration to help drive you forward, what would they be?
Seeing someone doing exactly what they were born to do.
Seeing someone have the courage to do something unpopular and honest.
Seeing art executed with a perfectionism that comes purely from a desire to be the best version of oneself.
Why do you think forging your own path is so important?
Because, while it's important to listen to advice, you're the only one who knows in your gut what your truth is, what you're capable of, and what happiness is for you. And because no one else is going to do it for you.
What advice would you give to someone looking to make a name for themselves in your respective industries?
Be honest with yourself. Know what your skills are and trust them. Surround yourself with people who will nourish those skills. Know your worth and have the courage to ask for it. And always remain open to the diverse experiences of others. They will enrich your own.