When someone "comes out," it is a sign of both trust and honesty. How a friend or family member responds can make a significant difference. YSS shares resources and considerations for loved ones of youth who may - or have - come out.
It has been said that a person doesn’t come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, transgender, etc. They come out as themselves. Closets are created by social and structural expectations about who are are supposed to be, and the consequences of defying that.
Miami University’s The Coming Out Project website provides a variety of resources for parents and loved ones of youth who may – or have – come out. Specifically, the article, “Coming Out as Gay or Lesbian: Common Questions from Parents,” provides thoughtful guidance on listening to youth and offering understanding – for both the child and the parent.
Erin Kennedy, LISW, CADC and supervisor and trainer in Multi-Dimensional Family Therapy at YSS, also shared the following considerations when someone “comes out” to you.
- Coming out isn’t an impulsive action or thought. The decision has been weighed and measured. The consequences and benefits of denying self and accepting self have run through the mind of the adolescent (or adult) for years before a conversation is initiated. With that comes confusion, doubt, denial and fear, followed by understanding, peace, acceptance, joy and freedom that comes from being true to self.
- When someone “comes out,” it is a sign of both trust and honesty that is found in healthy relationships with friends, family and other loved ones. When someone shares a part of themselves there is a risk. You don’t know how he/she/zie will understand and give meaning to the vulnerability shared. Be aware of your non-verbals and impulsive comments; while the intent isn’t to hurt, these visuals may damage and dim what has been communicated to you.
- Educate yourself. There is an abundance of information available in a click. Look for reputable sources of information, including the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).
Being gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender or gender queer is only part of a person. Being Methodist or Catholic, Latina or Latino, African American or Native Pacific Islander is only part of a self-concept. Different pieces of who we are, where we have been and what we have done, together make the story of who we are. Looking at one gear or one cog, one page or one chapter, one leaf or one flower, doesn’t allow you to fully understand the machine, the book or the forest.