For every LGBTQ+ individual, coming out has a different meaning. Everyone has their own unique experience in expressing their identity for the first time. With the growing acceptance of all sexual orientations, the stigma around coming out as gay, bisexual, trans, etc. is slowly disintegrating. However, that doesn’t mean the judgment and shame that comes with it is gone.
Many young, queer kids still face adversity when coming out. Whether it be to family or friends, for the first time or for the 100th time, claiming your identity is an incredibly difficult thing to do, and it is about time we recognize that.
Some pundits in popular media claim that being gay is no longer difficult in society. They report on queerness as if being a part of this community is the most recent trend. The mainstream media sources are no stranger to the misconception that coming out is easy, or even the talking-point that coming out as gay is not as hard as “coming out” as other political affiliations. In reality, a survey conducted by the HRC found that 42% of LGBTQ+ youth report that their community is not accepting of LGBTQ+ individuals. For a world supposedly no longer shaming gay youth, that number is shockingly large.
Luckily, the internet is full of resources for LGBTQ+ youth that support them in feeling less alone and less afraid to be themselves. Youtube is full of individuals, many of whom are teens and young adults, sharing their own coming out stories with the world. Films and TV shows featuring queer characters, such as Love, Simon, One Day At A Time, and Supergirl let LGBTQ youth see people facing the same issues they feel plagued by in their own lives. This representation aids in their journey of accepting themselves. There is even a website titled When I Came Out where those who feel closeted can read the stories of others and feel less alone.
So yes, in this day and age, the resources available to LGBTQ+ individuals are more extensive and accessible than ever in the past. Despite this fact, LGBTQ+ youth still face the horrifying possibility of non-acceptance from friends, family, or peers, and the consequences are far from small. Individuals from conservative families fear rejection from their parents. A 2017 report found that LGBTQ+ young adults had a 120% higher risk of reporting homelessness than those who identify as heterosexual and cisgender.
Rejection, violence, and bullying are only the top amongst a long list of the fears LGBTQ+ youth have regarding coming out. Even once someone makes the decision to, it is most likely not the last time they will have that conversation. However, the reward of being able to proudly claim your identity can often outweigh them all. Until we learn to acknowledge the existence of homophobia ingrained into our culture today, queer youth will forever be shamed into staying in the closet.
Caroline is an undergraduate student at Worcester State University. When she is not writing, she also runs a photography business specializing in portrait, wedding, and boudoir photography. She aims to use both writing and photography to empower women and encourage them to find their inner voice and confidence.