October 11 is National Coming Out Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness of civil rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community. It started in 1988 in Washington, DC, to foster an environment where living openly and honestly is possible for all LGBTQ+ members. When people know someone who is LGBTQ+, they are far more likely to support equality under the law.
Coming out is one of the most courageous acts any LGBTQ+ person can make. BJC EAP would like to share the following tips offered by The Human Rights Campaign’s A Resource Guide to Coming Out:
Coming Out – General Tips
- Be patient with yourself. It’s not necessary to tell everyone at once. Take your time.
- Don’t push yourself.
- Start small. It can be easier to start by telling friends than by telling family. Find allies in your family. If you think a brother or sister or cousin will be easier to tell, start there.
- Develop a support network of friends who are accepting and supportive.
- Be positive. When you come out to someone, you set the tone.
- Find resources or get a mentor to talk to.
- Don’t come out in anger or retaliation.
- Be patient with others. Some people take longer to digest the information than others.
- Realize that they may need some time to adjust.
- Be firm. Identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) or whatever word you use, if you’re sure.
- Assess the situation. If you’re unsure of your own sexual orientation or gender identity, find someone who can help support you during this time. Be aware that different people will have very different responses. Finding someone who will support you and also allow you to discover your own identity will be very helpful.
- Ask LGBT friends to share their coming out stories.
- Refer parent and friends to PFLAG, an organization for LGBTQ+ people, their parents, families, and allies.
- Be prepared for different types of reactions.
Tips for When Someone Comes Out to You
- Be patient. Allow them to tell you at their own pace. Let them determine what is needed.
- Commit yourself as an ally. Let them know you are accepting.
- Don’t push. A person who is coming out may have a hard time talking about it.
- Keep their confidence and respect their privacy.
- Acknowledge the risk they took by coming out to you. Compliment their courage. Don’t minimize the importance of what they did by saying, “It doesn’t matter to me.”
- Instead say, “Thank you for trusting me.”
- Or say, “It doesn’t change how I feel about you,” or admit that it might change things in a positive way.
- Don’t overreact.
- Ask, “Is there anything I can do for you?”
BJC EAP is always available for support. Call 314.747.7490 or 888.505.6444.