Here is another reason that it is so crucial that we as LGBT people live our lives openly and honestly:
I had almost the exact same experience as Jay. It was very easy to use the word "fag" around my friends--until I started working with gay people. Part of it was youth. (I was just coming into my college years) But a larger part was living in Washington D.C., hanging out in Dupont Circle (it used to be different), working in Adams Morgan, and being forced to see gay cats as actual human beings. "Gay" was no longer an abstract thing--it was, like, my editor who saved my sorry-ass copy--repeatedly.
That's blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates writing in response to an email from one of his reader about his experiences seeing LGBT people as people and not as some right-wing generated stereotype out to recruit kids, destroy the sanctity of marriage and bring down Western civilzation before heading off to the Banana Republic sample sale.
If we do not challenge the lies about our lives put out by those how wish us harm, we close ourselves off to the possibility of new and unexpected friendships that could enrich our lives.
When I say that I am not living in a Polly Anna-ish world where everything is sweetness and rainbow-wearing allies. I know that no matter how open and honest that we may be, there will still be people who wish to hurt us and force us back into hiding. But, we cannot allow them to rule our lives.
I also know that coming out is an individual process and that no matter how much the rest of us support you, you are the one who has to make the decision about when and how to come out and to whom. My point is that to varying degrees we have the choice about how we live our lives and that to live your life based on someone else's prejudices hurts you.
Ta-Nehisi's post shows that when we give people the opportunity to get to know us that we can person-by-person shatter the lies that continue to be told about who we are.