This Sunday is National Coming Out Day, the LGBTQ+ holiday that celebrates lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming people for being exactly who they are. And as the name implies, the day encourages LGBTQ+ folks to share their identities for the awareness and visibility required in the movement for full equality. Whether or not someone comes out on National Coming Out Day, the holiday recognizes the sometimes-difficult journey of self-discovery and the courage it takes to share their full identity with family, friends, co-workers or the world.
Why ‘courage’ is an operative word.
To say “coming out” takes courage is based on facts that the LGBTQ+ community is well aware of, for both youth at home and adults in the workplace.
According to the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report:
- 78% of youth not out to their parents as LGBTQ hear their families make negative comments about LGBTQ people.
- 48% of LGBTQ youth out to their parents say their families make them feel bad for being LGBTQ.
- Only 24% of LGBTQ youth can “definitely” be themselves as an LGBTQ person at home.
As self-affirming and freeing as it is for adolescents and teens to come out to loved ones, we have to recognize that decision can be fraught with fear, worry and stress. And the picture for adults in the workplace isn’t much rosier.
- One fifth (20%) of LGBTQ Americans have experienced discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity when applying for jobs. (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 2017)
- 53% of LGBTQ employees heard lesbian and gay jokes, 37% heard bisexual jokes and 41% heard transgender jokes in 2018. (HRC)
- Nearly two thirds (59%) of non-LGBTQ employees believe it is “unprofessional” to discuss sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace. (HRC, 2018)
- Even in inclusive workplace environments, LGBTQ individuals still see a risk of their relationship with their manager, team member or clients changing for the worse. (Catalyst Research)
Based on those stats we shouldn’t be surprised then to learn from HRC that 46% of LGBTQ people remain closeted at work. But I find that to be an outrageously high number.
Be ready to support someone who comes out to you.
People of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions need safe spaces to live their truth and be comfortable sharing it. That means feeling unconditional love and acceptance at home. At work, LGBTQ folks need the respect, support and inclusiveness of the people around them.
Here’s what you can do:
- Someone comes out to you because they trust you. Thank them for trusting you enough to share their true self with you. Ask how you can support them.
- Educate yourself. If you hear a new term or need a quick refresher on the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity, your search engine is just a click away. The It Gets Better Project has a fantastic glossary.
What’s important to the LGBTQ+ community is being acknowledged for who they are. There’s a whole lot of power and freedom in being true to yourself. And don’t we really want that for everyone? I’m hopeful that everyone who’s straight and cisgender like me is ready to support an LGBTQ+ person on National Coming Out day, or on whatever day it might be for them.
Pictured above: My gender-bending millennial kid Harry.
IF YOU LIKED THIS POST YOU’LL PROBABLY ALSO LIKE THESE: