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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.

The Importance of Correct Gender Pronouns 495 400 CJ Bourque

The Importance of Correct Gender Pronouns

The Importance of Correct Gender Pronouns

Pronouns are important! We use them daily when we interact with people and also when we refer to someone in the third person. But, when we use a pronoun, there is an implied gender which may not always be accurate. So even if you think you know a person’s gender, it just isn’t polite to assume.

If you aren’t sure about someone’s pronouns and you are not in a place where it feels safe to ask, then a good default position is to use “they/them/theirs.”  People may feel a bit uncomfortable at first with “they/them/their” pronouns because it can be viewed as a plural term for a singular person. But we actually use “they/them/their” quite often! For example, you might say, “Someone’s at the door. I wonder what they want?”

If you make a mistake, or incorrectly assume someone’s pronouns without asking first, you might be sending a hurtful message even if your intentions are good. Taking the time to use a person’s correct gender pronouns is one way you can show your respect for their identity.

You might feel unsure about how to best ask someone for their pronouns. Here are a few suggestions you can use to show that you want to be inclusive and respectful when meeting someone new:

1. Offer your pronouns first

Let’s normalize offering pronouns when we offer our names! If pronouns are not offered, it is implied that a person’s gender matches their gender expression –  but that might not always be the case.  A person’s gender can be expressed through their name, pronouns, clothing, or haircut. Some people’s gender expression does reflect their gender identity but sometimes it does not.

Offering your pronouns when you meet someone new conveys that you want to be inclusive and that you are a safe person for an LGBTQ+ individual to engage with,

Example: “Hi, I’m Taylor and I use he/him/his pronouns. How about you?”

2. If you are going to ask someone about their pronouns, ask in private

You never want to put someone else on the spot so you shouldn’t ask someone about their pronouns if you are in a big group of people. If you can take a moment away from the group, then you can politely make the inquiry.

Example: “I want to share with you that I use she/her/hers pronouns. If you are comfortable sharing, may I ask which pronouns you use?”

3. Use their pronouns

Once you have met someone and they shared their pronouns, then you should use them! If this is new to you, that is ok but you should still make the effort. You can practice in your head or aloud when you are alone in your car or room. And if you do make a mistake, calmly apologize, make the correction, and move on. And if someone else makes a mistake and misgenders someone, politely make the correction as well.

Example:  Mistaken Person: “Oh, I see Dylan left her jacket on the chair. I will go give it to her.”

Enlightened You: “That’s very nice of you! And, remember, Dylan uses the pronouns   they/them/their.”

4. What if a person is nervous about sharing their pronouns?

A person’s safety and well-being is the most important consideration of all. If someone doesn’t want to share their public pronouns they absolutely do not have to! No one should ever be made to feel pressured to divulge anything personal at any time, or at any place – no exceptions.

5. What if a person doesn’t know their pronouns?

It is absolutely understandable to feel confused or uncertain about your own gender identity. A person can feel quite certain one day about their gender identity and wake the next day and feel utterly uncertain. People need the space and time to realize what feels most affirming to them. Labels can be a helpful tool to describe gender identity but they are not required!

Want to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community? Please join us! Kaleidoscope offers free groups and clubs for teens ages 12-17 and young adults 18-24. We also have a free bi- monthly parent/ally/caregiver support group.


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