October 11 is National Coming Out Day! This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first National Coming Out Day, which was set on October 11 in honor of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. Today (and everyday!) is a time to celebrate those who have come out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer!
In honor of this special day, I have decided to write two support guides. For LGBT+ readers, I have compiled a brief resource guide to coming out. However, I also wanted to include resources for straight allies like myself. Stay tuned to the end to read about how allies can aid and support the LGBT+ community!
Please keep in mind that coming out is a lifelong process, and that there is no right or wrong way to do it. The most important thing is to come at in a way and at a time that is right for you.
Accepting your Identity
Being open and honest with yourself about your identity is the first step to coming out. Accepting the fact that you may be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer, opposes society’s heterosexual mold, and shows that you are able to forge your own path. Coming to terms with your sexual orientation or gender identity can be scary or confusing, especially if you are uneducated on such matters. It is completely normal to feel vulnerable, unsure, and afraid throughout the coming out process. However, this is what makes coming out such an empowering, liberating, and affirming experience!
Making the Choice
There are both risks and benefits to coming out. Hiding an integral part of who you are is exhausting, and coming out reduces the stress of keeping your identity a secret. Living openly allows you to enjoy a more fulfilling life and form more genuine relationships. Making the choice to come out helps to eradicate stigma that has kept LGBT+ youth in the closet before and dispel myths about LGBT+ life. It is affirming to be respected and admired for who you truly are, which improves self-esteem.
However, the reactions of friends and family are impossible to predict. Some people may not be accepting, and may turn hostile. LGBT+ youth are at-risk for being kicked out of their homes or losing financial support from their parents. Coming out may be a safety concern, as members of the LGBT+ community are more likely to face discrimination and harassment.
When weighing the pros and cons of coming out, it is essential to remember that you are in charge. You can decide who to confide in, when, and how. Although your sexual orientation and gender identity are important pieces of yourself, they do not define you. You have the power to refrain from coming out under circumstances when doing so would make you uncomfortable.
Forming a Plan
Once you have made the decision to come out, you will be tasked with preparing for the occasion. Try to predict the reactions that you will receive by considering the things you have previously heard your peers say about the LGBT+ community. Make sure that you are well-versed on LGBT+ issues and are able to answer any questions with ease. If you are faced with a negative reaction, knowing your facts will help disprove misinformation and accurately portray the LGBT+ experience.
Then, prepare what you are going to say. There is no right or wrong way to go about this. It is best to find a quiet place to talk, and make sure that you have sufficient time to have an in-depth conversation. Sometimes, light humor will help diffuse tension. The most important thing is to be honest and make it clear that you are open to questions. Offering resources on how to learn more is a great way to educate friends and family!
The responses that you receive may be varied and surprising. However, once you have come out, the journey is far from over. There is still a transition to be made from “coming out” to “living openly”. This change should operate on your own terms and timeline. Coming out will get easier over time with each person you tell. It is essential to remember that being openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer, does not mean that you are defined by your sexuality. Rather, your orientation is a piece of the puzzle that makes up you!
I hope that this guide is a helpful tool! I wish all of you the best of luck on your coming out journeys, and commend you for your bravery. Coming out can be a frightening, and at times, risky, experience but it is also incredibly rewarding.
Finally, I would like to share some resources for straight allies like myself. As an ally, there are a number of ways you can support and benefit the LGBT+ community. High school students can let their LGBT+ friends know that they are not alone by starting a gay-straight group in their school. To learn more, check out the Gay-Straight Alliance Network: https://gsanetwork.org/. College students can show support by creating a safe space on campus. Campus Pride is a great resource for “building future leaders and safer, more lgbtq-friendly colleges and universities”: https://www.campuspride.org/. Allies can also make a huge impact by sharing necessary resources with struggling LGBT+ peers. The Trevor Project (https://www.thetrevorproject.org/#sm.00008thsielxnfojpqt2fqupcnj71) offers a 24-hour helpline for LGBT+ teens struggling with depression and suicidal ideation. They can be called toll-free at any time at 866-488-7386. Finally, the most important thing an ally can be is a friend. Written by The Human Rights Campaign and PFLAG National, this guide “outlines the right and wrong things to do when a person comes out to them, dispels some common myths about LGBTQ people held by the general public, and outlines some simply ways to show support.” : https://assets2.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/Supporter_Guide_April_2014.pdf?_ga=2.118644044.495952894.1539221697-1606349853.1539221697.
Thank you all so much for reading. I hope that National Coming Out Day was meaningful for you, no matter how you identify.
By: Jessica Hutt