National Coming Out Day: It's Still Not Easy
We Need to Support Those Who Are Coming Out
Why Coming Out Still Matters
According to Egale Canada's study Every Class In Every School, 51 percent of Canadian students who identify as LGBTQ do not feel safe in school. Let that sink in. Even though Canada has long lived by the stereotype of being one of the friendliest nations in the world, so polite that we sometimes slip up and say thanks to bank machines, there are still kids who don't feel safe in school because of who they are.
And there's still some people who wonder why coming out is such a big deal.
When a kid - or an adult, too, for that matter - decides to come out to you, it's not some random decision that was made on the fly. That person has decided to trust you with something very significant; they're really telling you, "I feel safe enough with you that I'm going to share something really private about myself that I feel you should know." There's a host of emotions that go along with that decision, and fear can fall among those. What if they've misjudged you? What if, even though they trust you and respect you, your perception of them completely changes?
When someone decides to come out to you, this is not a decision that was taken lightly, and it's a choice that was made that needs to be honored. This person chose you to come out to, and the best way you can honor that choice that was made is to listen - really listen - as they talk to you and share with you their truth.
The world we live in now is one that is fraught with judgment and violence, and we all need to feel safe and accepted for who we are. There are going to be kids and adults everywhere who are making the choice that today, National Coming Out Day, is the day that they share with the important person or people in their lives who they are.
How are you going to respond?
Closets Aren't for Hiding Anymore
Respect Them. Love Them.
I remember the comedian Colin Mochrie was interviewed a fair bit in 2016 (I think) about his trans daughter, and I sort of held my breath a little to see what this man whose work I respected would say about his child's decision to come out.
What he said made me smile - not a surprise - but it also was so simply and beautifully stated that it resonated with me.
"You go through this thing 'now my child has changed gender, does that mean that previous child is now gone?'" Mochrie said, admitting that he soon came to realize "it's the exact same kid" with a "different coat on."
Nothing has changed about the person who's come out to you.
They're the same person who might have put on a different coat than what you might have been used to, but in reality, as the song by Coleman Wilde says, "it's what's inside that counts."
I've said to my kids, who are 8 and almost 13, that I would never care what they ultimately identify as; they could identify as teddy bears, is my general line, but what matters to me is whether or not they're good people. I realize not everyone has that person in their lives who will love them "no matter what," but really, someone who's coming out to you also needs to know that you're still there and that you will still respect them for who they are, not for the gender they might identify as or for who they love.
I realize I'm oversimplifying, but the fact of the matter is, I've had kids throughout my career who have come to me and come out. They come to the GSA - Gender and Sexuality Alliance - meetings in order to feel safe and respected for who they are. There's a host of kids and adults in Canada and worldwide who are looking to you for support as they make the decision to come out.
On National Coming Out Day, and on any other day when someone makes that choice to come out to you, respect and love those people in your life who make that decision.