Coming out is a topic that someone is guaranteed to ask about at every professional development training or conference I speak at. It can be very fascinating to hear someone's personal story and learn how to better support students through these stories. Throughout this newsletter you'll find links to students telling their stories on coming out, resources for families, and helpful tips when working with a student who has recently come out.
The coming out process can be very scary for many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals. It's a process where you reveal a part of yourself that you have been hiding for your entire life. There is fear of losing family members, friends, and even professional repercussions that can occur. Coming out is also something that you do not have total control over because of gossip and rumors or with the advent of social media it can spread in an instant.
It's critical we work to support youth who are at their most vulnerable during this time. When a student does come out to you - it means you as an educator or youth-serving professional have done something right. You may have stopped someone from saying that's so gay or you have a sticker in your classroom that says Safe Zone. It's a critical time for the student and one where your main responsibility needs to be to listen to what they are saying.
I hope you'll save these resources because there will come a time that you or a colleague will need them. Together we can make sure all students feel safe and supported in the classroom and beyond.
Thank you for all your support,
Nate Monson, Executive Director
10 Tips if a student comes out to you; from our friends at GLSEN:
1. It takes a lot of courage for someone to come out to you--listen to all they have to say without interrupting, judging, tuning out or buying into stereotypes about LGBT people.
2. Tell them how pleased you are that they trusted you enough to share something so personal and congratulate them on the bravery it took to be so honest.
3. Let them know that you feel the same way about them as you always have and that nothing has changed (except that you can be even closer than before).
4. Ask questions and show that you are interested in learning about their feelings and experiences. Be respectful and stay away from personal issues (sex, HIV, etc.) unless they let you know it’s okay.
5. If you are feeling uncomfortable or upset, be honest. Let them know you may need some time to process everything, but acknowledge that it is your problem to work out and not their responsibility.
6. Remember that you cannot and should not try to change them--you have an opportunity here to support, not to reform them.
7. Ask what you can do to support them or what they need from you right now.
8. Follow up. The coming out conversation should be the first of many. Continue to check in and ask questions over time.
9. Be open to socializing with their new friends and in a variety of settings, both LGBT and straight. Let them know that they don’t have to compartmentalize their lives.
10. Be an advocate. Read up on LGBT issues, wear an LGBT-friendly button or sticker, join a GSA or other LGBT group, and confront homophobia in whatever ways you can.