As Pride month comes to a close, we reached out to our friends at True Colors in Hartford. They are a great organization that offers education, advocacy, and support to LGBT+ youth and their communities. Their executive director, Robin P. McHaelen, MSW, offered the following advice to a young person thinking about coming out to their family and friends.
Coming out is a personal decision and there’s plenty to consider before-hand. Remember that only you can decide when it’s right for you to come out because only you can truly know your situation and circumstances completely. If you are considering coming out, here are a few things you might think about:
- How comfortable are you? If you feel confused or uncertain (which is completely normal) reach out to folks who won’t push for a label, but will support and affirm your exploration. At least at first, find people who will give you room to think, question, wonder and explore—people who will support you regardless of your ultimate conclusion about your orientation. Then, WHEN YOU ARE READY, begin planning to come out to family and friends whose reaction feels less certain to you. Don’t raise the issue until you are sure you can respond with confidence to the inevitable “Are You Sure?!” Confusion on your part will only increase confusion on their part. If you’re still figuring it out, or even still feeling guilty about it, it’s better to wait.
- Do you have support? Just in case things go wrong, you should have an individual or group you can turn to, in confidentiality, who will give you emotional support. If you need some help or support, you can call 211 in Connecticut– they have 24/7 emergency crisis support and are open and affirming to LGBTQ+ issues. Also, you call The Trevor Project Hotline at (800) 850-8078. They are a 24 hour LGBT youth suicide prevention hotline. Just remember that the moment-whatever it is-passes. You just gotta hang on.
- Can you answer questions? Your family and friends’ reactions may be based on a lifetime of homophobic information. Part of your job in coming out to yourself was to learn new things—now part of your job may be to teach others. Are you prepared to do that? If not, check out organizations like PFLAG at www.pflag.org or the Family Acceptance Project at https://familyproject.sfsu.edu/, They have brochures, information and even meetings just for parents and friends that can really help.
- Timing Counts! Holidays are notoriously stressful and hectic times for families. Your family’s response during such times, or other stressful times, will likely be different than calmer moments when people have time to think and process. This could take time (after all, it took you a while to come out to yourself and be ok with it!) and choosing the right moment is critical. Think about your own family and decide when might be the best time to bring up the subject. What if people don’t respond the way you thought/hoped they would? Have alternate plans. Remember that families will often need time to figure things out. But, if the situation turns violent or dangerous, get help from friends, the police, or the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF). The DCF Hotline number is (800) 842-2288. A school social worker or other helpful professional may be able to help you develop a safety net. Remember, not all rules are bad rules.
- Particularly when it comes to bringing partners home, remember that rules are still rules, regardless of the gender of your partner. Ask yourself “Would my parents let me share a room/express this much PDA/stay overnight with an opposite sex partner?” If not, don’t expect the rules to be different.
True Colors, Inc. works to create a world where LGBTQ+ youth thrive. Our mission is to ensure LGBTQ+ youth — of all backgrounds — are safe, valued, and able to be their authentic selves. We do this by providing education, advocacy, and support to LGBTQ+ youth, their families, communities, and those who work with them. We provide mentoring, training, foster parent recruitment, weekly social groups for youth, and youth leadership. www.ourtruecolors.org (860) 232-0050