October 11, 2018 marks the 30th anniversary of National Coming Out Day, a day that is celebrated internationally to raise awareness of the issues facing the LGBTQ+ community and to help its members share who they are with the world.
The coming out process can be a frightening thing for members of the LGBTQ+ community. Regardless of what they're coming out as or who they are coming out to, this time can be riddled with fear, stress, and major anxiety. In an ideal world, no one would feel the need to come out but, while coming out still happens every day, it's important to make the experience as pain-free as possible.
Here are 11 things for allies of the LGBTQ+ community to remember when surrounded by LGTBQ+ friends, or people whom they suspect to be LGBTQ+. Following these tips can help your LGBTQ+ peers feel more integrated into your family or friend group and will prevent you from causing them further suffering as they come to terms with their identity. This list also contains reminders for members of the LGBTQ+ community themselves as they embark on their journeys of self discovery and prepare to come out.
1) NEVER out somebody.
Deliberately forcing someone out of the closest may seem like a joke, but it is far from funny. You may feel as though you are doing them a favor by outing them so they don't have to do it themselves but, truthfully, it could only be making things worse. Also, make sure you don’t accidentally out somebody and be careful with your choice of words. It can put them in danger, force them further into the closet, and just generally make people uncomfortable.
2) If someone does out you and you aren’t ready to come out yet, it's okay to deny it.
Saying "No, I'm not that." isn’t the same as lying. It's okay to want more time and there is nothing wrong with wanting to wait so you can come out in a way that makes you happy.
3) No one can force you to come out.
It is up to YOU to decide when, and if, you do it. It's your life, you know what feels right. You can live your life in the closet, live your life as openly LGBTQ+, or live your life without ever feeling the need to explain or label yourself in front of others. Honestly, it doesn't matter, and those who have a fixation on labeling you are the ones with the problem.
4) There is no right or wrong way to come out.
Coming out is such a deeply personal experience, so don’t feel obliged to follow in the footsteps of someone else. Everyone is different. Do it however you think is the best way to get the words out. It's great to take inspiration from other peoples' coming out stories and, if someone has done something which you like, it's okay to do that too! Just remember there is zero pressure on you to come out in a particular way. Whether you want to write a status on Facebook or shout about it from a rooftop with a megaphone, it's all cool!
5) Coming out isn’t always easy and the response won’t always be positive.
Surround yourself with people who make you feel safe and accept you. You do not have to justify cutting someone off who doesn’t respect your identity. In fact, they should be the ones explaining their reasons for not accepting you. The coming out process will probably never end, as you’ll always be telling new people. Ask for support if you need it and have people, even if it’s just one person, to contact if things get dangerous.
6) The bravery it takes to come out is admirable.
If you have come out or are considering it, that’s a huge thing and you should be so proud of yourself. In a world bursting with judgement and hatred, being unapologetically and authentically yourself is the most courageous act, especially when society usually wants you to be anything but. Never let anyone undermine the strength it takes to come out, yourself included.
7) If you want to come out, COME OUT.
Don’t feel ashamed and don’t let the narrow minds of others deter you. If you truly feel as though you're going to burst at the seams if you don't tell someone, what are you waiting for? Life is too short to deprive yourself of a FULL life. Be proud of who you are, despite how difficult that may be.
8) But if coming out will put you in danger, it’s okay not to do so.
If you think your parents will throw you out and you aren’t able to financially support yourself just yet, don’t worry. It’s OKAY to wait. It doesn’t make you any less of who you are and it does not make you a liar.
9) If you are non-LGBTQ+, don't come out as a joke.
10) If someone comes out to you, recognise how big of a deal that is.
You should feel honoured that they trust you enough to share that moment with you. The coming out experience can be the most vulnerable someone has ever been in their life. It isn't an easy conversation to initiate so, usually, LGBTQ+ people don't come out to just anyone. Also, don't be afraid to ask *respectfully worded* questions if there are things you're unsure of. Be kind, too. Always.
11) Love yourself, whether you’re out, closeted, contemplating coming out, never want to come out, or are just curious.
You’re valid and worthy of respect. Your identity doesn’t make you any less loved!
Emily Bashforth is a 19-year-old writer from England who is passionate about all things positivity, self-love, acceptance, and equality. Find Emily on Twitter and Instagram (@EmilyBashforth) and read her blog, emilybashforth.co.uk!