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: