Today, Sunday, October 11 is National Coming Out Day, an annual awareness day that supports members of the LGBTQIA+ community. This day was first observed on the anniversary of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1979, a large political rally that took place in Washington, D.C. and drew between 75,000 and 125,000 gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender folx, and straight allies to demand equal civil rights and urge the passage of protective civil rights legislation.
As many of you know, this is still an area of human rights we are fighting for today, in the United States and across the globe. It was only in June of this year (2020) that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that employees cannot be fired for being gay or transgender.
Close your eyes and imagine for a second that you could be fired from your job—not because you were bad at your job or you lied or cheated or stole. But simply because of who you loved. Simply because of who you were. Imagine if that only changed a few months ago.
I could keep writing about how far we have come and how far we have left to go but today is a day for pride and celebration and I want this post to reflect that. Moreover, I want to focus on how everyone can best support their loved one after they come out.
First, let them talk. This is about them, not you. You might be shocked or this might be something you “always knew.” Keep those reactions to yourself. Your role right now is to listen and to follow their lead. If your loved one casually mentions it in conversation, follow their cues. If your loved one has made a sort of celebration in telling you, then pop the champagne! The point is: this is their moment, not yours. Listen first.
Next, it’s important to understand how open they are about their identity. Be sure you are clear about who knows what. The last thing you want to do is accidentally out someone to another friend or family member before your loved one is ready to come out to them. Can you talk about their new partner in front of their roommate but not their parents? Be clear about who knows so you can be respectful of your loved one and allow them to come out on their own terms.
Be supportive, but follow your friend’s lead. Your friend might want advice about how to tell other people in their lives. They might want you to attend an event with them or they might want help finding resources in their community. Or… they could want none of the above. Now is not the time to assume you know what they want or what would help them. Again, your role is to listen.
And finally, love them. It’s really that simple. Thank them for trusting you with this information and reaffirm that they are valid. Tell them you are proud of them. Remind them that you love them no matter what. Remind them that you love them no matter what.
Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a short note for members of the LGBTQIA+ community who are unable to live into their truest identities or who are not ready to come out. It’s okay to not be out. You are valid. You matter. You belong in the LGBTQIA+ community. Happy Coming Out Day.