National Coming Out Day: 'There's something beyond acceptance'

      SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- National Coming Out day is an occasion to encourage and support gay, bisexual and transgender individuals across the country that declare openly who they are.

      Members of the LGBTQ community say the process of coming out can be hard, and having a day devoted to encouragement can help. As the stigmas surrounding gay and lesbian lifestyles have evolved, Friday's National Coming Out day is also about celebrating progress.

      "I can remember 40 years back when you went to rent an apartment and didn't tell them you were gay if they find out you were gay a lot of times you got evicted," said Springfield-resident Bonnie Berman. "I had a gay guy friend named Hershel. He was gay and I was gay he would come to the house, pick me up like we were going on a date."

      Other members of the gay community like Daniel Borson say that Coming Out day is also a day of celebration.

      "I think there's something beyond acceptance, which is celebration and I think we all need to be celebrated in all the ways we are diverse and special," said Borson.

      "The Springfield mayor (gave) a beautiful speech on how important it was to her that Springfield be accepting and affirming of the LGBTQ community," said Paul Homan, prevention manager for the HIV Alliance.

      Other groups, like the HIV Alliance, see the day as an opportunity to get the word out about the community. Homan said that because the virus is prevalent in the LGBTQ community, it is important to educate people on the risks.

      "70 percent of those infected with HIV in Oregon are gay/bisexual men, so it is definitely a concern throughout our community. I think the best thing to preventing HIV is knowing your status and talking about it with your partner," said Homan.
      About 1 in 5 people infected don't know they are HIV positive, which is responsible for about 80 percent of new infections.

      HIV Alliance has numerous resources available including free testings. For a full list of services visit their website.