The danger of identifying as nonheterosexual is extensive, yet annually people still take the risk on October 11, National Coming out Day.
What is LGBT History Month?
Not to be confused with LGBT Pride month in June as a commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan, LGBT History Month has been celebrated every October since 1995 when the General Assembly of the National Education Association (NEA) inducted the month at the prompting of Missouri school teacher Rodney Wilson.
The month has been endorsed and sponsored by 20+ popular organizations including the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and Equality Forum.
George Chauncey, Chair of the History Department at Yale University stated, “LGBT History Month sends an important message to our nation’s teachers, school boards, community leaders, and youth about the vital importance of recognizing and exploring the role of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in American history.”
The month is celebrated nationally in different facets.
Each day of the month, a different public figure from the community is named a national LGBT history month icon. Advocates teach lesson plans surrounding LGBT history. (For instance: Obergefell Et All. v. Hodges was the 2015 Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage). Also art exhibits, protests and parades are acted out.
While all these are great features, the star of the month is National Coming Out Day.
What is Coming Out?
The phrase “coming out” is extremely common in the LGBT community. There are many pop culture references to this, the most famous of which arguably being Diana Ross’ song “I’m Coming Out.”
According to the American Psychology Association (APA) website, “The phrase ‘coming out’ is used to refer to several aspects of lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons’ experiences: self-awareness of same-sex attractions; the telling of one or a few people about these attractions; widespread disclosure of same-sex attractions; and identification with the lesbian, gay and bisexual community.”
Those who are self-aware of their non-heterosexuality but haven’t told anyone are often referred to as “closeted.” APA elaborated, “ Lesbians and gay men who feel they must conceal their sexual orientation report more frequent mental health concerns than do lesbians and gay men who are more open.”
Should I come out?
Coming out can be a relief for those who feel well equipped for the process. Having a strong support system and resources foster a greater well being. Drama department chair, Todd Schaefer, cited being out as a source of relief for him and his partner regardless of any discrimination he’s received.
Becoming aware of sexual feelings is a normal developmental task. In fact, experimentation and questioning of sexual attraction is most common in younger audiences. This exploration may lead people to find a label they feel more appropriately expresses themselves, however the timing in revealing that label is also crucial, according to the APA.
Though National Coming Out Day is celebratory for some, just because there is a holiday does not mean people must come out on this day, or ever.
APA said, “The younger a person is when she or he acknowledges a nonheterosexual identity, the fewer internal and external resources she or he is likely to have. Therefore, youths who come out early are particularly in need of support from parents and others.”
Americans as a society have grown more accepting of the lesbian gay bisexual transgender plus community, yet LGBT people are still more likely to be the victims of hate crimes than any other minority group. Many high school students still rely on their parents for needs like finances and housing. When choosing the correct time to come out, a person should think about how the parents or guardians are most likely to react. If this reaction is most likely negative, it may be best to wait until the person is ready for independence.
What are my resources?
A number of programs in the St. Louis region help youth who want more education, therapy services or even shelter.
The prominent program at WGHS is the Gender Sexuality Alliance club (GSA). Nationally, there are more than 6,500 student led GSA clubs. Students in schools with GSAs are 18 percent less likely to hear homophobic remarks in school on a daily basis.
GSA club meets every Thursday in math teacher Susan Riegel’s classroom to discuss topics and support the LGBT community through charitable works and education.
Riegel said, “[Club members] can essentially meet other members from their school that they know they will get support from.”
GSA president, senior Isabelle Blake, said, “I want to provide a space for other students who are experiencing any sort of tension revolving around their sexuality or gender identity or if they are experiencing strife at home or at school. I think it’s really important to have a space for the LGBT plus community in all education and work settings.”
Some additional supportive organizations for LGBT youth in need of help are PROMO, Youth in Need, Places for People, PFLAG, TransParent St. Louis Chapter, Washington University Transgender Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, The Spot and Saint Louis University Rainbow Alliance.
Other resources to consider at school are social worker, Ann Gibbs, psychologist Lily Hal and any trusted adults.
This is Senior Trinity Madison’s first year on ECHO staff. She now serves as Advertising / Business Manager after a year of training and contributory writing in journalism class.
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