There was a time I did not know any gay people. It was probably middle school but the time period existed. Boy George, Ellen Degeneres and Pedro Zamora were my only confirmed gays before my junior year of high school. My parents and grandparents most likely would say they did not know any out (instead of rumored) gay people until adulthood. It is highly likely and most probable that my great-grandparents knew no gay people. If we look at the transgender community, the evolution of visibility is probably similar. Up until a handful of years ago, I did not know any transgender people. However, my daughter whether she realizes/knows it or not will have transgender people in her life. Your children may even already know another transgender youth. Visibility matters because it gets the dialogue rolling, minds opening and hearts growing.
Visibility of people like Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox, Chaz Bono, Aydian Dowling and 14-year-old Jazz Jennings may inspire someone in your life who has been too scared before now. Being gay and/or being transgender means having to do a lot of talking about personal details. More specifically having “coming out” conversations. So from someone who has been “coming out” for like 10 years now; here are some things you should know.
- Coming out conversations are exhausting, nerve-racking, sometimes scary and just plain hard.
- Do not tell the person they are confused or worse, wrong. The person having this conversation has been working on this speech and started this process long before talking to you.
- Because we are all mere mortals, we tend to focus on how it affects us when someone comes out. It is totally OK to have feelings about someone else’s coming out but think real hard before you speak.
- Sexuality and gender identity are no one’s fault. Also – No one was recruited, conditioned or persuaded.
- Choice is a word that should be avoided unless you’re just glad they made the choice to be happy and live an authentic life.
- I do not think people we randomly meet in life owe us a coming out conversation.
- If someone tells you they identify as a girl or a boy, use the correct pronoun. Sometimes we don’t know what pronoun to use. That’s OK. Chances are the person will let you know.
- Ask questions even if they seem silly. It’s OK to not know things. It’s OK to wonder. Just be respectful and open to the answer.
- Unless you’re real real close like that. Who, what, where and how someone is having sex is none of your business. Not saying you should never talk about it…but your new co-worker probably doesn’t want to talk about that with you…yet.
- Appreciate that this person is placing all of their trust in you with this information. That’s a high compliment to the place you hold in their life and heart.
You can never go wrong if you are honest, open and full of love. Love and light come from all kinds of sources in this world. Be open. Be kind. Be love.
I am very excited about Becoming Us that is premiering next week (Mon. 5/8) on ABC Family. You can check out the full episode right now on the HRC Blog. The HRC website also has a lot of good information on Coming Out, Transgender issues, Marriage Equality and any other LGBTQ+ topic you need to know about.