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Coming Out

Coming Out Again and Again
Coming Out Again & Again 495 401 CJ Bourque

Coming Out Again & Again

Coming Out Again and Again

Coming Out Again & Again

By Leo Kirkham

As Dr. Sarah Bruce wrote in her blog post for last year’s Coming Out Day, coming out is a journey, not a destination. There is rarely one single moment in a person’s life where they come out, but rather, a series of choices every single day about whether to come out to the random stranger cutting your hair, or to your neighbor, or to your doctor. This puts LGBTQIA people in the position to choose safety or authenticity: Do I choose the comfort of this person knowing my identity, or the comfort of them not knowing?

Coming out can bring feelings of joy, relief, and even euphoria – but it can also bring feelings of fear or anxiety. For some LGBTQIA people, in their journey of exploring their gender and sexual orientation, find that they need to come out again as something new.

Personally, I came out as bisexual before I came out as a lesbian. Then I came out as nonbinary, changed my name, and starting using they/them pronouns. Each coming out marked a new stage of my journey to finding myself, and a step closer to my truest, most authentic self.

But coming out again, and again, was scary. Will the family members and friends who loved and accepted me as a lesbian, still love and accept me as nonbinary? Will they use my new name and pronouns? If I change my name or pronouns in the future, will they understand?

Every new coming out brings with it a new wave of doubts and what-ifs.

Sometimes, family members or friends are accepting of a person’s sexual orientation, but not their gender identity. Or they are okay with their child being gay, but they don’t believe bisexuality is real. Or they were fine with someone changing their name and pronouns once, but think, does that person have to change them again?

There is also the fear of reinforcing negative stereotypes about the LGBTQIA community. For example, I feared coming out as a lesbian and reinforcing the stereotype that bisexuality isn’t real, or that all bisexuals come out as gay in the end. This stereotype isn’t true, but often LGBTQIA folks, like other minorities, face the burden of having to represent their entire community. Stigma and stereotypes arise when individuals are taken to represent all LGBTQIA people.

Instead, we should give individuals the freedom to explore their identities without judgment. Every new coming out should be greeted with joy and celebration. Tell your child or loved one, “Thank you for trusting me. Thank you for telling me. Thank you for being your true, authentic self with me.” By creating a safe environment for your loved ones, you encourage them to be confident, be brave, and be themselves.

“Coming Out”: A Journey, Not A Destination 495 401 CJ Bourque

“Coming Out”: A Journey, Not A Destination

By: Sarah Bruce

“Coming Out”: A Journey, Not A Destination

October is here, marking the return of pumpkin spice, LGBTQIA+ History Month, and National Coming Out Day! National Coming Out Day, celebrated every year on October 11, was established to raise awareness about the LGBTQIA+ community and to show support for LGBTQIA+ equality. For many, National Coming Out Day evokes feelings of pride and excitement, yet others may feel pressured and anxious about “coming out” (sharing information about their gender identity or sexual orientation with others). “Coming out” is often conceptualized as an “act of bravery” or a decision to “live openly and authentically,” which can potentially leave those who struggle with defining and sharing their gender identity and/or sexual orientation feeling ashamed and alone. Feelings associated with “coming out” are personal and unique to every individual, and “coming out” often gives rise to both positive and negative emotions.

When making decisions about if and when to “come out,” LGBTQIA+ people may consider a variety of different factors, including safety, housing, and potential reactions of family members and friends. As some families may reject LGBTQIA+ family members and refuse to allow them to live at home, many LGBTQIA+ people are unable to “come out,” because doing so could place them in an unsafe environment or lead to homelessness. They may also decide not to “come out” at a certain time due to fear of rejection and disconnection from loved ones. LGBTQIA+ people may choose not to “come out” even when their family and friends may be supportive, because they are not sure how loved ones will react and may not want to risk losing the acceptance and respect of the people they care about the most. Certain situations can also lead LGBTQIA+ people to wait to come out, such as feeling unsure about their gender identity and/or sexual orientation or experiencing negative feelings about their gender identity and/or sexual orientation.

In the media and popular culture, “coming out” is often portrayed as a life-changing, singular event that either ends in crushing disappointment or a great celebration (a kiss between two gay characters on a Ferris wheel to thunderous cheers and applause in Love Simon comes to mind). However, it may be more accurate to think of “coming out” as a life-long journey rather than a final destination. “Coming out” is a decision that is made every day during every social interaction. As gender identity, sexual orientation, and pronouns may shift from day to day or multiple times over the course of a lifetime, “coming out” may also occur with the same set of people multiple times. Neurodivergent individuals who also identify as LGBTQIA+ may consider disclosing their neurodiversity to others as a form of “coming out,” such that they are engaging in “double coming out” throughout their lifetime. In addition, some individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+ decide never to “come out.”

“Coming out” is a journey that may evoke negative emotions but can also include moments of beautiful, affirming relationship growth. Every LGBTQIA+ person has a unique “coming out” timeline, and determining this timeline is a personal and complex process. LGBTQIA+ people are deserving of love, respect, acceptance, and support no matter where they are on their “coming out” journey. If you or someone you care about would like to explore “coming out” or other LGBTQIA+-related topics, seek support, or connect with others in the LGBTQIA+ community, please contact us at Kaleidoscope for more information.

Pride With No Parade 495 400 CJ Bourque

Pride With No Parade

Pride With No Parade

In its 50th year, the LA Pride Parade has been postponed indefinitely.  How can this be?  With all of the oppression that the LGBTQ+ community has faced, it’s hard to comprehend that something is preventing us from participating in a cultural tradition that is based on defiant freedom.  How do we stay in to celebrate Pride, when what we’re celebrating is synonymous with Coming Out?

Whether we are LGBTQ+ or not, we are in an incredibly challenging chapter in our lives.  One with loss, uncertainty, confusion, and fear.  Many of our usual methods of coping are currently unavailable to us.  Communities of support aren’t accessible to us in person.  Our means of financial support may be in jeopardy or even gone.   We’re living in fear of losing our loved ones.  Many lives have tragically been lost.

Of course, this is not the first time that the LGBTQ+ community has faced a devastating challenge such as this.  For many, this current experience is bringing back tragic memories of the horrific AIDS epidemic.  There was fear, unimaginable suffering and heartbreaking loss.  The disease seemed to be targeting the LGBTQ+ community specifically and that only fanned the flames of anti-gay and anti-transgender sentiment in society, expressed through policies from administrations and violence in the streets.  Along with grieving this past, though, we can also learn from it – and have an awareness of positive aspects that emerged from it, to give us the hope that we need now.

In a recent press conference regarding the impact of COVID-19, Dr. Anthony Fauci also drew a parallel to the AIDS epidemic and the resilience of what is now known as the LGBTQ+ community.  He recalled that, “During that time, there was extraordinary stigma, particularly against the gay community.  And it was only when the world realized how the gay community responded to this outbreak with incredible courage and dignity and strength and activism — I think that really changed some of the stigma against the gay community, very much so.”  As head of the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, Dr. Fauci was responsible for developing medications to treat HIV/AIDS at the height of the epidemic.

Thankfully, the devastating hardships connected to the AIDS epidemic also inspired qualities of strength in the LGBTQ+ community that became embedded in our conception and expression of pride.  Compassion.  Love.  Unity.  Resilience.  These are only some of the principles that are now weaved into the very meaning of LGBTQ+ pride, similar to the colors that comprise the rainbows of our flags –  and the spectrums of kaleidoscopes!

So, are we able to have pride without a parade?  Absolutely!  The principles of pride are internal ones that we carry with us, always.

Let’s draw upon those principles now.   We may not be able to meet in the street to march and celebrate, but we are able to connect virtually until we may once more do so in person.  At Kaleidoscope, we support the revision of the term “Social Distancing” to “Physical Distancing,” because we are able to connect socially while remaining safely physically distanced.

We invite you to join us in this social connection and pride celebration!   Meet us in one (or more) of Kaleidoscope’s free online LGBTQ+ social support groups!  There are many such groups to choose from.  Simply choose one or more that interest you and represent your age group.  Then, click on the link to register.  We look forward to seeing you soon!

Pride Club for Ages 11 – 13

Connect virtually with other LGBTQIA+ youth ages 11 – 13 and their allies through creative activities, games, discussions, & hanging out.

Varsity Pride Club for Ages 14 – 17

Connect virtually with other LGBTQIA+ teens ages 14 – 17 and their allies through creative activities, games, discussions, & hanging out.

Young Adult Coffee Chat & Support

Young adults (ages 18-24) of the LGBTQIA+ community are invited to join Kaleidoscope online for an afternoon of meeting peers, getting resources, and feeling connected.

Creative Expressions

LGBTQIA+ youth (ages 11-17) and their allies are encouraged to bring an original creation, whether it be something written, a song, a dance or a piece of art – that is appropriate to share with others.

Movie Night for Young Adults!

Grab a snack and join our movie watch party featuring LGBTQIA+ representation and storylines. Ages 18 – 24.

Movie Night for Teens

Grab a snack and join our movie watch party featuring LGBTQIA+ representation and storylines. Ages 12-17.

Becoming Part of the Solution 495 400 CJ Bourque

Becoming Part of the Solution

Becoming Part of the Solution

Maya Angelou wrote, “Do the best you can until you know better.  Then when you know better, do better.”  I find these words to be powerful for two reasons.  First, they help us have self-compassion for our past mistakes with an understanding that we may not have been able to do better at the time.  Secondly, they are a directive to take accountability in the responsibility of actively becoming part of a solution.  As a therapist, I use this quote by Ms. Angelou to both encourage clients to forgive themselves for poor choices made in the past while also inspiring them to take action to “do better” in the present.  These words have also helped me personally, as I reflect upon my history of making changes to stop perpetuating anti-gay and anti-transgender messages and instead become part of the solution.

In the late 1980’s, I was in Middle School in Missouri (or Junior High, as it’s called there.)  In my class, there was a boy brave enough to stand apart from the crowd in his self-expression.  Although boys in our school were expected to be obsessed with the Cardinals baseball team and wear related attire, he chose to wear gender fluid clothing and even eyeliner instead.  He was someone who would be referred to as “emo” today and as “alternative” back then.  Most people assumed that his appearance meant that he was gay.  So, he was bullied for his unique self-expression: called hurtful names, laughed at, and ultimately even physically attacked.  The principal called him and his mother into the office but unfortunately blamed the victim.  The boy was told that, if he dresses in such ways and wears makeup to school, he is inciting violence and “asking” for abuse.  The principal asked that he either conform to a “normal” gender expectation or transfer to a different school.  Not compromising his self-expression, he and his mother chose for him to transfer.

At the time, I was secretly questioning my sexual orientation and was absolutely terrified that peers would learn my secret.  As I heard the horrible things being said to this boy, I did not defend him.  In fact, I joined in the laughter, no matter how awful it felt inside.  It was a way for me to stay hidden – a way to stay safe.  I did not witness the physical attack, but I certainly heard about it and how the boy was assigned blame for it by the administration.  The awful message that I received was that if I honestly expressed myself in my unique differences, I would also be bullied, violently attacked, and maybe even kicked out of school.  I went deep into the metaphorical closet and did not emerge from it for many years.

Ultimately, my personal journey led not only to me coming out as a gay man, but to a career of standing up for other such youth in the Kaleidoscope Program.  As Maya Angelou’s forgiving words attest, I wasn’t able to do it back then, but I am able to do so now.  I’ve often thought of the boy over the years, the regret I felt for being part of the problem rather than the solution back then, and the yearning to somehow apologize to him for it.  Thankfully, I finally got an opportunity to do so this past week.

Classmates posted about a reunion on social media.  In the comments, he responded!  The pain and trauma that he endured was quite evident.  This brave boy had apparently grown into a brave man, and he took this opportunity to call out his bullies.  He informed our classmates that he is happily married to a beautiful woman and that they have children.  His history of being bullied was an example of how not only LGBTQ kids are bullied, but how those who are perceived to be are as well.

I gratefully took the opportunity to commend his strength (then and now,) explain that I was too scared at that age for peers to know that I thought I might be gay, and apologize for being part of the problem rather than the solution by laughing at him along with the others.  I told him about how my professional career is now dedicated to helping other kids who might be going through something similar to what he or I went through.

Then, an amazing thing happened.  One of the guys who bullied him added his apology to the comments, writing that he, too, has thought of the boy who he bullied frequently, with regret.  He asked for forgiveness on behalf of himself and the others.  Like me, others were taking the opportunity to own up to their actions, apologize for them, and strive to do better.  Several people wrote about how they are now teaching their children to celebrate those who are different rather than ridicule them for it.

Perhaps you, too, are interested in learning more about becoming part of the solution by creating safe spaces for LGBTQ teens – and for those who are perceived to be – to have the freedom to express their unique selves?  Please reach out to us at Kaleidoscope.  We would like to assist you in your effort to provide affirming support.  Let’s all be a part of the solution together!

*If you are a youth or young adult who is experiencing bullying related to how others perceive your sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, please contact the Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386 or visit www.thetrevorproject.org for 24/7 support through talk, text, or chat.

Considering LGBTQ+ Independence and Freedom 400 300 CJ Bourque

Considering LGBTQ+ Independence and Freedom

Considering LGBTQ+ Independence and Freedom

July is a time when we contemplate and celebrate our independence and freedoms.  What do those words mean to you?  We could consider them in both broad and personal terms.  How are these values expressed in your daily life?  Are you living an independent life?  Are you free to be the person who you are inside?  Let’s take a moment to examine what they may mean to someone who identifies as LGBTQ+.

Beginning with a broader consideration, many states outside of California still do not allow LGBT people the same rights as heterosexual, cisgender people, such as employers maintaining the legal authority to fire an employee for no other reason than the suspicion of them being gay or transgender.  Some school administrations do not make accommodations for transgender students.  Despite the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association’s condemnation of conversion therapy (interventions based on the false premise of being able to change one’s sexual orientation,) many states still allow the harmful practice.  These are only a few examples of why the fight for LGBT freedom from such oppression continues on a broad level.

This systemic oppression is often supported on a national level, intensified on social media, and then internalized by LGBTQ youth.  In fact, Daniel Reynolds writes in The Advocate that “Minority stress – created by stigma, discrimination, bullying, or a perception of bias – is credited as the main detractor to the mental health of LGBTQ youth.”   Imagine the impact of internalizing these anti-gay and anti-transgender messages not only in community settings and through social media, but in your own home.  How many of us might be afraid to be ourselves in such environments, for fear of rejection?  How many of us might experience depression or anxiety, as a result, numb ourselves with drugs or alcohol, or even consider taking our own lives to avoid such pain?

The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people, estimates that more than 1.8 million LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13 and 24 in the U.S. seriously consider suicide each year and that at least 693,000 LGBTQ youth aged 19–24 in the U.S. seriously consider suicide each year.  However, recent surveys conducted by The Trevor Project with over 25,000 LGBTQ young people indicate hopeful news.  The results indicate that having just one accepting adult in their lives, whether it’s a parent, family member, or someone else entirely, can reduce the risk of an LGBTQ youth attempting suicide by 40 percent. That’s cutting the risk almost in half, just because of one supportive person in that person’s life.  What makes this study particularly significant is that it shows that the support could come from outside the youth’s family and still have a healing impact on their mental health enough to reduce suicide attempts so drastically.

Kaleidoscope provides affirming support not only for LGBTQ+ youth and young adults, but for their families, teachers, counselors, caregivers, and others in their lives to be able to increase the level of support that they provide.  We want youth and young adults to have the freedom to be themselves fully as they learn the skills necessary to lead independent lives.  With this freedom, a sense of positive wellbeing is developed and nurtured.  The broad national fight for equality carries on.  In the meantime, let’s recognize the importance of helping our LGBTQ+ youth and young adults develop their own independence through personal freedom, as well.

Sources:

  1. Reynolds, Daniel. “Report: Just One Accepting Adult Can Save an LGBTQ Young Person’s Life.” The Advocate. https://www.advocate.com/youth/2019/6/27/report-just-one-accepting-adult-can-save-lgbtq-young-persons-life
  2. The Trevor Project (2019). National Survey on LGBTQ Mental Health. New York, New York: The Trevor Project.
Kaleidoscope Pride! 400 300 CJ Bourque

Kaleidoscope Pride!

Kaleidoscope Pride!

It is with great excitement that we are launching the Kaleidoscope website, as we are thrilled to be able to reach more people and provide support.  It is also a happy coincidence that this launch coincides with LGBTQ+ Pride month!  We are certainly proud to be able to work with our LGBTQ+ youth and young adults and we also encourage them to feel proud of who they are.  Check out our Events page to find out where you and your families can show your support by attending Pride events this month.  You may encounter us at a Kaleidoscope booth when you do…  Please say hello!

What is the significance of showing LGBTQ+ Pride?  Perhaps in your own family, you’ve heard the question asked, “Why don’t people just keep that private?  I’m straight and I don’t feel the need to throw a parade about it.”

To address that question fully, we need to go back to the not-so-distant past… Straight, cisgender people were never thrown in jail for being born that way.  However, being LGBT was a criminal offense in California until 1975!  Until then, patrons of gay bars were often placed under arrest and their names were printed in local newspapers, leading to being fired from jobs and ostracized from families.  It was also a criminal offense to be in public wearing articles of clothing that did not “match” the gender on one’s identification!  It took acts of civil disobedience (basically, standing up and being proud of who we are in the face of intense opposition) to change laws and be treated more equally.

This struggle for equality continues to this day.  And to be seen, we must be visible.  In battling a 1978 proposition that would make it legal for teachers suspected of being LGBT in California to be fired, Harvey Milk shouted the battle cry “Come out, come out, wherever you are!”  Today, we understand that coming out is a challenging and ongoing process that must be done safely at the own pace of each individual.  For those who are safely able to, however, standing up and being seen and affirmed for who we are can be an incredibly empowering act.  And it helps others to be able to do the same.

Perhaps Artem Kolesov said it best:  “We don’t come out for heterosexual people to know.  We don’t come out for the ones who hate us to know.  We shout and make as much noise as possible just so other people like us who are scared and can’t be themselves would know that they are not a mistake and they are not alone.”

At Kaleidoscope, we hope to help you see that – although you are beautifully unique – you are not alone.  Whether you are able to express who you are to just one supportive person or to the world from atop a parade float, you bring your own colorful expression to this world.  You are special.  We are here to support you.  We are proud to stand with you.  In fact, at Kaleidoscope, we are proud of you!