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Coming Out
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Coming Out
by Beth Reis

 WHY do people come out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI)?  

Some people don't have any choice. Somehow they've been recognizable as LGBTI since they were infants. Their most natural, honest gender expression differed enough from their culture's stereotypes that they were "out" before they knew themselves.

But other gay, lesbian, bi, intersex (and some trans) people are not particularly different from heterosexual non-transfolk in their gender expression or, at least, they fall somewhere within an acceptable range of "normal" gender roles for their culture at their time in history. And they may decide to come out. Why? For all kinds of reasons:

BUT know that it is also OK to work for human rights in quieter ways if it isn't safe to be "out" at this point in your life or in your particular home or work environment. So if your school is a dangerous place, if you are pretty sure your family would kick you out or beat you up, if you can't afford the emotional or practical costs of coming out right now, know that you are entitled to walk the journey at your own pace. Nobody else gets to decide for you when the costs of silence outweigh the risks of openness. Don't let people guilt-trip you into taking steps you aren't ready for. Someday you will find peace in bringing your whole self to work or school and especially sharing your honest, unmasked self with the people who love you. Until then, know that your life is still a gift to the world. And there are still actions you can take to end homophobia!

NOBODY SHOULD ALLOW SOMEONE ELSE'S enthusiasm about human rights activism to pressure them into coming out before they're ready. We're each on our own personal journey!!

WHY do people come out as heterosexual allies (or as children or other family members or friends) of LGBT people?

 ACTIVITIES teachers and GSAs might consider:

Consider celebrations that would empower people to come out:

Coming Out by Beth Reis is also available as a PDF formatted two page handout 


Listen to: "How I Feel" (3:16) on Some Folks (1998)
and "How I Feel Now"
(3:36) on Just As Sure (2004)
by Lisa Zeiler / Rebecca Riots http://www.rebeccariots.com/

This is also posted on our Music on the Safe Schools Coalition Website resource page.

Listen to: "The Closet"
by Steve Schalchlin - on Beyond The Light (2002) http://www.bonusround.com/

This is also posted on our Music on the Safe Schools Coalition Website resource page.

Beloved Daughter: a 40-page booklet of letters from Chinese mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters to their lesbian/bisexual daughter/sister. "Beloved Daughter," printed in Chinese and English and illustrated with family photographs, reveals a range of feelings, from fear and shame to understanding and love, as families share their own "coming-out" stories. To order copies ($3 plus shipping and handling), maplbn@labrys.org or use snail mail: MAPLBN, c/o Hanna Lu, 3103 Shelter Creek Lane, San Bruno, CA 94066 or their web site: http://www.labrys.org/family

Be Yourself: Questions and Answers for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth: a pamphlet from PFLAG, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Print version, $1: http://www.pflag.org/fileadmin/user_upload/Publications/Be_Yourself.pdf (pdf format) One page summary of "Be Yourself":http://community.pflag.org/Document.Doc?id=354 (pdf format)

Brochures from Advocates for Youth: These brochures are available on web pages and in pdf format in English, Amharic, Chinese, French, Spanish and Vietnamese:

Coming Out: A Guide for Youth and Their Allies: Tips for youth and their allies on coming out and supporting those who are in the process from the Education department of GLSEN. http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/news/record/1290.html

Coming Out: Coming out and living openly arenít something you do once, or even for one year. Itís a journey that we make every single day of our lives. Every coming out experience is unique and must be navigated in the way most comfortable for the individual. The Coming Out Project helps LGBT, as well as straight-supportive people live openly and talk about their support for equality at home, at work and in their communities each and every day. Web pages with information on coming out lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, FAQs, and more including:

Coming Out in Communities of Color: This series of web pages from the Human Rights Campaign has sections addressing the specific perspectives of African Americans, Latinos/Latinas (including a version in Spanish), and Asian Pacific Americans - see links from this page: http://www.hrc.org/resources/category/coming-out

Coming Out ... I Want the World to Know ... (Or Do I?): This article by Jessie Gilliam of Advocates for Youth is for adults who work with youth raises and offers advice regarding various issues that may arise when adults make themselves accessible. http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/storage/advfy/documents/transitions1404.pdf  (pdf format)

Coming Out of the Classroom Closet: Gay and Lesbian Students, Teachers and Curricula: K. Harbeck. This 1992 book ( ISBN: 1560230134) includes a discussion of school-based programs for gay and lesbian youth, a history of the treatment of gay and lesbian educators and their current legal status. NY: Harrington Park Press. $19.95.

Fact and Information Sheet About: When a Friend Comes Out to You: Tips for handling a friend's "coming out" - adapted from a flyer by the Youth Service Bureau of Wellington, Ottawa: http://www.jmu.edu/safezone/wm_library/Coming%20Out%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf  (pdf format)

Free Your Mind: The Book For Gay, Lesbian, And Bisexual Youth And Their Allies: E. Bass, 1996. This 1996 book (ISBN: 0060951044) offers great coming out advice for youth and those who love them. NY: HarperCollins. $14.00.

Identity/Expression Activity: learning what it feels like to hide who you are: by Caroline Gould adapted from various sources and used by the Massachusetts Department of Education's Safe Schools Program for Gay and Lesbian Students. http://www.safeschoolscoalition.org/Identity_Expression_exercise.pdf (pdf format)

A Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Or Transgender Educator's Process For Coming Out: An Attorney's Perspective: This article by Jerry Painter, pasr Washington Education Association General Counsel, offers educators issues to consider in weighing when and how to come out and what to do if they are experiencing harassment or discrimination because someone perceives them to be gay or because they have come out. 
(pdf format)

When Your Child "Comes Out": an excellent article by Kathy Byrd - originally published in The Forecaster, newsletter of Far West Family Services.  http://www.safeschoolscoalition.org/When_Your_Child_Comes_Out.pdf  (pdf format)

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