Today, as we mourn the loss of Maya Angelou, HRC is also reflecting on her legacy as an LGBT advocate. The celebrated author was not only a civil rights pioneer, but also an outspoken advocate for the LGBT community.
In 1998, Maya Angelou spoke at the second annual HRC National Dinner about the importance of coming out.
Though coming out is a deeply personal, arduous journey for each individual, Angelou's words remind us still today of the importance of living openly and authentically.
Below is an excerpt from her speech.
“It is important that each of us be aware of the power we have in our very being to come to be a federal supporter of HRC to actually come out to work to become present in our varying communities. You have no idea who’s watching you. You have no idea who you will impress and inform and change and enhearten and empower. You have no idea who will take just something you said from your heart … or the way you walk or the way you dress. There’s some 14-year-old who says, ‘I like that.’ You have no idea who you will inform because all of us are caged birds, have been and will be again. Caged by somebody else’s ignorance. Caged because of someone else’s small-mindedness. Caged because of someone else’s fear, hate and sometimes, caged by our own lack of courage.
When we have enough courage to come out – I don’t mean just out of the closet, I mean out of your spirit – when you have enough courage to stand and say, ‘I came here to say,’ it’s amazing. You have no idea who you will inform.”
Today the entire HRC family mourns the passing of Maya Angelou.