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National Coming Out Day

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.

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!