Sunday, October 11 is National Coming Out Day, an annual holiday to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ) people choosing to come “out of the closet” and live their life as their true selves.
During our recent Real Talk education series, we devoted one week to Talking to Young People about Gender and Sexual Identity and covered a variety of important topics. You can watch that discussion, or any others in the seven-part series, on our YouTube channel.
One question not covered that evening, but one that our Education team hears a lot is:
“Help, I’m scared to tell my mom I’m gay! What should I do?”
As part of our ongoing Ask the Experts series, Cary Archer, Manager of Education of Outreach offers this advice:
Coming out to a peer, friend, or adult can be a big decision for anyone. For many people choosing to come out, it can cause both positive and negative emotions that make the lead-up and conversation tough. Regardless of who you are choosing to come out to, there are things that can help you feel more prepared for the conversation.
Consider who will support you and be there for you, no matter what identities you hold. This may not be a family member or adult. If you are coming out to someone for the first time, you want that person to receive it positively and support your identities. It can also make future coming out conversations easier if the first conversation goes well.
Plan ahead. Consider how you want to come out to the person. Will it be via text, phone call, direct message, or in-person? Practice what you want to say and how you want to say it in order to express how you are feeling. Think about the range of reactions the person may have to your coming out. Some people will react positively, while others react negatively. How will you feel if they react one way or the other?
Set a location and time to come out that is best for you. Some people prefer to come out in public to reduce the potential reaction of the other person, while others want to be in private when they come out.
Keep your safety in mind. Unfortunately, coming out does not always go perfectly. The person you come out to may have negative emotions or show aggressive behaviors when learning about your identity. Think about a back-up plan for food, housing, clothes, and transportation if you think the conversation may create an unsafe environment.
If you have safety concerns, you can contact the LGBTQ Violence Resource Line at 773.871.CARE (2273) or via email at [email protected]. For additional resources and support, visit The Trevor Project or call (866) 488-7386.
Central Illinois also has support options including Uniting Pride of Champaign County which offers youth and family groups, The Phoenix Center, and the Bloomington-Normal Facebook Support Group.
Remember, no matter the reaction of the person you came out to: Your identity is real and you deserve to be respected, cared for, and loved exactly as you are.
If you are the trusted adult a young person is coming out to, Cary has some pointers for you, too:
Let the young person lead the conversation. You may want to jump in with practicalities, judgment, initial feelings, or questions, but it is important to remember that more discussions can happen later and that allowing the young person to lead the way gives them space and empowers them to say what they have to say.
Create a supportive and welcoming environment. Remember that this conversation may be scary and difficult for a young person, and they’ve probably thought about it for a long time before finally coming out to you. It is a sign of trust that they are sharing this part of their identity. Let them know that you are a safe person to talk to about how they are feeling or if they want to talk in the future.
Regardless of how you feel about the young person coming out and sharing their identity, you should not share the information with others. Let the young person decide who else they want to tell. Your job is to be caring and supportive of the young person no matter the identities they hold.