It's National Coming Out Day, and Mark Joseph Stern marks it with a message for straight people: Please, don't ask your gay friends to tell you their coming out stories. "On television, coming out is usually greeted with celebratory affection at best, distressed confusion at worst," Stern writes on Slate. But in real life, coming out is often a scary, stressful, awkward "drag"—or even, for many, "the most singularly traumatic event" of their lives.
Coming out can mean "tears, terror, and emotional brawls," and usually at least one family member who simply can't be told because of his or her lingering homophobia. Kids are sometimes even kicked out and have to live on the streets. All of this is why some people attempt suicide rather than come out. So yes, coming out is "a monumentally meaningful rite of passage," and straight people are trying to be nice by asking about it. "But unless the information is freely offered, please: Keep your questions in the closet." Click for Stern's full column. (Read more gay stories.)