Sharing With Pride

2 min
at 11:43 PM

Coming out is one of the most important moments in the life of anyone in the LGBTQ community, especially a teen. Stephanie Denman has this Perspective on how adults can help them navigate that sensitive passage.

My daughter recently invited me to attend a forum organized by LGBTQ teens. One of the top issues raised by the teens was the straight community’s ignorance about outing someone.

One girl spoke about the pain of being outed at basketball practice when she was 15. “Suddenly, I was the gay girl in the locker room,” she said. She didn’t have the chance to control the release of her identity. She recalled how the team’s attitude toward her changed instantly. It wasn’t necessarily negative, but it was awkward, and not the way that girl would’ve cared to share her news. I felt terrible for her, and I wondered if the person who outed her was aware of the sensitivity of that information.

As the mother of a gay teen (and yes, my daughter knows I’m sharing this) I know how complicated it is to navigate this situation. When a person comes out, their families come out too. Just as a person who identifies as Queer considers carefully who to tell and when, so do family members and confidants. Who needs to know? When is it appropriate to share? It’s a moment for celebration and liberation. And a conversation to be handled with care.

Whether it’s the person coming out, or family members coming out about their children, here are three ways to respond respectfully:

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1) Acknowledge the moment. Tell the person you’re honored they’ve shared this important information with you. If you witness someone being outed, like the girl in the locker room, let them know you understand this is a big moment and that you’re there for them.

2) Reassure the person. Let them know that you care about them and that you support them.

3) Discuss how they want to share their identity. A person will have to come out many times throughout their lives. Confirm whether they want you to tell people, or if they’d prefer to share it themselves. And decide together who you can tell.

It takes guts to share your true self. With a little mindfulness and a loving heart, we can help Queer people share their identities with pride.

With a Perspective, I’m Stephanie Denman.

Stephanie Denman is a communications consultant living in the East Bay with her husband and two teens.

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