Happy National Coming Out Day
Oct. 11 marks the 32nd anniversary of one of the most important days in LGBTQ+ history. National Coming Out Day, a holiday founded in 1988 by gay rights activist Jean O‚ÄôLeary and psychologist Dr. Robert Eichberg is a day of observance and recognition for LGBTQ youth.
Established in memoriam of ‚ÄúThe Great March‚Äù on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, the holiday aims to raise awareness for individuals within the LGBTQ+ community. It also reaches to create a safe environment for those who want to come out in the future.
Coming out is an extremely personal decision and can be an emotional process. Unfortunately, acknowledging their identity runs the risk of things like discrimination, harassment, and even violence. And for LGBTQ+ people of color, these risks are even higher. Given the high emotional toll and personal risk involved in coming out, it is especially important to respond in a loving and caring way to those coming out and to yourself.
Things to consider when deciding to "come out"
First and foremost, remember everyone's "coming out" journey is different...
Some people come out at a young age while some never do. Other's are very open about their sexuality and gender and there are those who prefer to keep it to themselves.
Coming out can be a liberating and exciting experience. There may be plenty of reasons why you want to let others know.
Ultimately, there‚Äôs no right or wrong way to go about this because how you come out will depend on your own experiences and situations. You don‚Äôt need a particular reason to come out ‚Äî if you want to do it, that‚Äôs reason enough!
When your ready, choose who you come out too carefully...
People avoid coming out for various reasons. They may believe they won't be accepted. The action of telling someone may also feel too emotionally stressful, or private. While this may be the case, those who have gone through the same thing say coming out is the most freeing thing.
Think about the people you‚Äôre closest to and who would love and accept you no matter what ‚Äî those people can help support you as you come out to others in your life.
Maybe you tell your friends, but not your family members. Perhaps you tell your siblings, but not your parents. Again, this is completely up to you. Even more, you have the right to ask those you tell to keep it private.
If you have an anonymous social media account you might feel comfortable coming out to your followers first.
How you come out to people is also an important decision...
The way you come out really has one solid rule: it should feel right to you.
If you think someone that you‚Äôre coming out to might have a negative response, it‚Äôs a good idea to have a plan for how you‚Äôll deal with it. Set up some support ahead of time from a person who knows and loves you.
Whether you choose to share the news through an in-person conversation or in a text or email, remain confident. If you‚Äôre talking face-to-face, pick a time and place that makes you (and them) feel relaxed, without distractions. Writing a letter or email can be a good option if you‚Äôre worried about saying things the right way, if you want to give the person time to think through their response.
Sometimes it takes a while for people to adjust ‚Äî what you‚Äôve told them might be surprising or unexpected for them. Give them the time they need to process everything.
How to support someone who is "coming out"
Support during the coming-out process is about letting loved ones express how they're feeling and what the experience is like. Allow yourself to hear their journey and avoid talking about yourself.
Being a good friend to a person at a vulnerable time of their life, even if it's not an experience you understand, is completely possible. Make sure they know they aren't alone in the process.
Ask the right questions
If they want to talk about how they got to this point, ask sensitive questions, like, 'How are you feeling?', or 'How long have you known?'
Some examples of what not to ask include questions about why they didn't tell you sooner or who else knows. These can often be more harmful than helpful in situations like this. Instead of treating them differently
Celebrate their identity
Recognize that it takes a lot of courage to come out! This is likely something that they‚Äôve wanted to tell their loved ones before, but have seriously struggled with.
Remember that they‚Äôre still the same person that they were before they came out. Go with them to Pride parades, be their wingman/woman when going out.
Help them find appropriate resources
Heck, even finding some TV shows with some representation can be useful! Seeing someone you identify with on-screen is a great way to realize you aren't the only one going through these situations.
At the end of the day...
If you are wrestling with the idea of coming out, remember that you are loved. Sure, it can be difficult to predict how someone will react when you come out but, you‚Äôre not alone.
Keep in mind these wise words from the Queen herself: