Tomorrow, October 11, you may see more pink triangles on clothing and rainbow flags waving in the air. Rallies, parades may be more prominent. Why? It’s National Coming Out Day. As of 1990, it is observed in fifty U.S. states and seven other countries.
WHY WE HAVE IT
It’s observed annually to celebrate coming out and to raise awareness of the LGBTQ community. Founded in 1988 by Robert Eichberg, a psychologist from New Mexico, it celebrated the second anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbians and Gay Rights when an estimated 500,000 gathered on the National Mall to demand increased funding for HIV/AIDS research, the repeal of anti-sodomy laws and the legal recognition of LGBT relationships. The Human Rights Campaign has resources for National Coming Out Day. See http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/national-coming-out-day.
By sharing stories of coming out, LGBT persons hope to take the stigma out of being “different,” and advance equality. It is estimated that one out of every two Americans has someone close to them who’s gay or lesbian so there is enormous potential for LGBT allies.
When To Tell
However, LGBT people should not feel pressured to come out on October 11th. Their announcement will not be as newsworthy or glamorous as a moviestar’s or an athelete’s. So, they shouldn’t get caught up in the celebration and reveal themselves before they are ready.
Announce you’re gay when you feel most secure and comfortable. Perhaps in a quiet living room with no distractions so your family can truly listen and take in your important message.
Weigh The Risks
The average age of coming out, according to a Pew Research Study, is sixteen. In the 1980’s, it was twenty-one. A sixteen year-old is still living with his/her parents regulating their social life. So, if your parents disapprove of your sexual orientation, it means that they could, in fact, reject you, tell you to go live elsewhere (40% of homeless youth have been thrown out of their homes) and withhold money that was designated for college for you. Your teen’s decision to come out should be contingent on his parent’s acceptance and love. If you hear homophobic slurs at home, perhaps this is not the time to come out to your folks. You can anticipate indignation.
Better to have a supporter, preferably one who is out himself. Also, if you are out at school, think about the likelihood that you will be bullied. .LGBT students, according to GLSEN, Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, get harassed more than their heterosexual peers. You have to weigh these factors before coming out.
A Word to Parents
Even if you suspect that your child is gay/lesbian, you should not ask. Give the child some space. It’s none of your business until he/she divulges this important aspect of his true self. Ask and he/she may think you’re judging – that you noticed something different about him. Better to create a safe environment where he/she can come out when ready. For example, you might discuss current events, the Supreme Court decision of last June, bullying at school, reveal that you’re all for a diverse society. Make it easy for him to come out of the closet.
Once he does, it’s wise for you not to come out yourself about his identity without his permission.
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.