I’m gay, and with one week to National Coming Out Day, I’m coming out for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality because it’s 2010 and almost 90% of LGBT youth still experience harassment in school.

I’m coming out for equality because too many lives have been lost due to anti-gay bullying.

I’m coming out for equality because I want all queer youth to know that there is someone who loves and supports them.

I hope you are that someone. Will you join me?

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been moved to tears as news spread about each of the nine youth who committed suicide in September after being bullied for being, or being perceived as being, gay. I’ve also been profoundly moved by how my family, friends and thousands of people I don’t know have responded to this tragic crisis. Dan Savage started the It Gets Better Project to showcase the stories of LGBT people and show struggling queer youth that it gets better. Ellen DeGeneres posted an emotional video explaining why she can’t be silent. A friend on Facebook who I’d never heard talk about LGBT issues wrote that “this is something that is important to me, bullying is something that tears me apart to hear [about]. This has to stop and cannot continue for any reason!”

This National Coming Out Day, it’s more important than ever to come out for equality – whether you identify as LGBT, a straight ally or otherwise. It’s not easy or even safe for some to take this step, but the rest of us have the power – and I believe the responsibility – to help create a world where everyone can live openly, honestly and without fear of discrimination or harassment.

As the thousands who took part in HRC’s Conversations from the Heart campaign last year demonstrated, every action – whether it’s “donating” your Facebook status for National Coming Out Day, putting an equality sticker on your car or dorm door, telling your gay grandson you love him or speaking out against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – has a profound impact. Each action you take serves as a reminder to LGBT people of all ages and degrees of self-acceptance that we are surrounded by support, and helps to change hearts and minds in the broader community.

Last year, we generated about 2.64 million Facebook news feed stories in support of equality on October 11. As an “out” individual, seeing each of my friends’ statuses made me smile and gave me strength. And, thinking back on my “closeted days,” I know that seeing just one person’s post would have helped alleviate my fear of rejection and given me the courage to come out sooner – to live the honest, open and awesome life I have today.

So, on October 11, come out for equality in your own way, and for your own reason. Maybe it’s the same as mine, but I hope that whatever your reason, you remember it each day and continue being a proud advocate for equality.

And, if you know any queer or questioning youth struggling with issues of self-acceptance, isolation or harassment, please let them you know are there and direct them to any of the aforementioned resources, or others such as HRC’s coming out guides, The Trevor Project or I’m From Driftwood. If you are a straight ally, check out HRC’s A Straight Guide to LGBT Americans and the Give a Damn Campaign.

Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story