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Limitations to ‘coming out’ as a social justice strategy

Scott Henderson
Scott Henderson, Furman University William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Education

Furman University’s Scott Henderson, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Education and faculty sponsor of the Furman Pride Alliance, recently published “The Political Is Personal: Limitations to Coming Out as a Social Justice Strategy” in the online magazine, Shuddhashar, an international journal devoted to free speech and human rights.

Henderson’s article (the title is a twist on “the personal is political,” a mantra from the late 1960s) was sparked by his interest in modern social movements such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, he says. Focusing on the LGBTQ community, Henderson concluded that it is a mistake to insist that all individuals “come out”—the act of publicly revealing one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity—as a global social justice strategy. The consequences of coming out can be dire (sometimes execution) for individuals in certain parts of the world.

While Henderson’s article does not deny the significant progress made by the LGBTQ rights movement in the United States and elsewhere, it suggests that the struggle for equality is far from over, even if that struggle cannot be the same everywhere.

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