October 11th is National “Coming Out” Day, a time to celebrate and reflect on the importance of visibility. Being out means walking through the world as one’s authentic self, to embrace the very human need to be seen as we truly are, rather than compartmentalize and hide.
If you are a human who interacts with other humans, here are a few things to consider this week.
For Queer Youth
Coming out can be intimidating. It can also be fantastically liberating and a chance to final walk through the world as you. So many elements and unknowns factor into the decision to come out. Will this change your relationship with family? Are there teachers or coaches who might not be supportive? It’s a lot to think about.
If you’re not ready to come out or lack the support to disclose and stay safe, we’re here for you. Reach out for help and use the resources that are available. The Trevor Project, Trevor Space, and Trevor Support Center are phenomenal. Yes, things can suck and seem unbearable. Stick with us, we need you.
I also want to pass along some advice from your future self. You are coming up during an amazing and sometimes terrifying social environment. Change is slow and often involves moving backward.
The good news is, we’ve pushed through this before. We’ve got your back.
People will try to erase you and diminish the value of your experience. Do not underestimate your potential to change the world. Advocate for yourselves and each other. Vote, and bring your friends with you to the polls.
It’s easy to become complacent and fall into the “all politicians are the same” narrative. Trust me on this, they’re not. Do some research and understand that your priorities may not always align completely with a given candidate. Become a relentlessly informed human.
Your generation is standing on the shoulders of giants
Being a parent comes with more plot twists than a Cohen brothers’ movie. One minute you’re on the phone making a doctor’s appointment while writing a reminder to pick up more beets, then “bam” your kid walks into the kitchen and comes out as non-binary. And now the dog wants back in. Seriously, this is how it happens, people.
Whether you had an inkling, or this is a complete surprise, it can take time to process. When kiddos disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity, it can bring up some surprising emotions for parents and family members. Take a breath, hug your child, and ask how you can best support them.
Remember, they have probably been thinking about what to say and your possible reactions. How you respond in those first few moments is critical. They’ve taken the big leap – it’s up to you to provide a safe landing.
For Straight, Cisgender people
Be supportive. Most importantly, don’t accidentally “out” someone. It’s easy to get caught up in your desire to be supportive. If a friend discloses on social media, they may be only out in certain aspects of life. Sharing this info or re-posting can be way more than they are ready to manage. It can also be dangerous or potentially jeopardize their well-being. This is their message to share, on their timeline. Keep them safe.
Last, don’t make this about you. Every year someone decides to take the bold move and come out as straight on social media. Every. Damn. Year. Stop – just stop. Sure, it might feel to you like a cheeky move. Take a step back. As part of the dominant culture, you are the default setting. When you can be fired for being straight or banned from prom for your blatant cisgender identity – then come and talk to me about how you need a special day as well.
It’s not about you, it’s about them. Now go practice those pronouns.
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