The Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center has launched a billboard campaign to celebrate National Coming Out Day and the center's 20-year-history.

"For our commemoration of National Coming Out Day (October 11), we decided that we must be more visible as an organization," said the organization in a release on its Web site. "We're using the phrase 'unafraid and unashamed' as our rallying cry.  We are unafraid of living an open and honest life, and unashamed to be the people we were born to be.  It's a strong message of confidence and self-assuredness that we believe will help others in our community who are not able to be live freely and openly.  We are "coming out" as an organization because others cannot."

The group said the billboards would serve several functions, including:

- We want the Mid-South to know about us and the many life-saving programs we offer.

- We want to show our neighbors that we are an integral part of the community, of schools, of businesses, of churches and of families.

- We want to encourage our gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual brothers and sisters to come out whenever possible.  Coming out is an act of courage, of power and of freedom.

- We want to show that we are unafraid and unashamed to be honest about ourselves.

"We encourage people to take control over their own lives and their own stories.  Each of us is best able to speak our own truth.  Being fearful has robbed us of that power to control what is ours.  Let us stand together without fear or shame and say "I am gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender"  It is our right to be honest and open.  If you share our goals of full equality and living free from fear, please join us as we minister to, support and provide services to the Mid-South LGBT citizens."

The billboards can be seen around Memphis at the following locations:  Cooper & Young, Poplar & High, Walnut Grove & Tillman, Summer & Mendenhall, Whitten & Summer.

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