It’s National Coming Out Day!

I “knew” I was gay in middle school.  I knew it as soon as I knew I had romantic/sexual feelings. But I fought and repressed those feelings for years.  In fact, it wasn’t even until after I came out that I was able to understand those feelings I was having and realized that although I wasn’t conscious of being gay, I “knew” it deep down.  It caused me a lot of hurt and anxiety to get over those feelings and work through it all in order to come out of the closet.

So, I love seeing young people who acknowledge and own their identities. I love seeing other young people accept their LGBT friends as equals and friends.  It really warms my heart.

But I sat on a panel once in which an audience member asked what they should do about their nephew who was — in their eyes — obviously gay, but denied it.  It hurt their hearts to see him headed down this path of repression and self-denial.  I imagine there are a lot of parents in this same situation and want to make sure that their children know that they’re safe at home.

Here’s the thing: you can’t come out for someone else.  Don’t even try.

If you tell someone they’re gay and they aren’t ready to admit that, then they’ll likely deny it.  And they’ll be hurt and angry with you for the trouble it causes. So, just relax. Let them come out in their own time.

In the meantime, here are some things you can do for the young people you love, both gay and straight, to make sure they KNOW you’re there for them no matter what:

  • Be vocal about your support for gay families.
  • Start young and talk to your children about how there are lots of different kinds of families out there.  Boys can grow up to marry boys. Girls can grow up and marry girls.
  • Advise them against saying things like “That’s gay.”  It’s using ‘gay’ in a negative way and suggests that gay is a bad thing.
  • Tell your kids you’ll love them no matter who they love when they grow up.
  • Encourage your children when they express interest in things… even if those things aren’t “normal” for their gender.  Even straight boys can do fashion.  Straight girls can fix machines.
  • If you know some gay people, let your children see you being friends with them.  It’s not enough to just SAY that you’re cool with gay folk.  You have to show that you are.

When I was a kid, we used to love to play a game that we called by several names, but the most common was “Smear the Queer.”  I didn’t know what that word meant, but my mom heard us talking about the game and she asked that we find a new name.  I asked her why and what it meant.  She didn’t go into any detail, but she said that queer people are just different from us and it was hurtful to play a game called “smear the queer.”  So, we started calling it “Clobber the Robber.”

I think back on that now and I am so proud of her for standing up for gay people like that and trying to teach me and my cousins to be kind to gay people.

You never know when you might say the right thing and make a big difference in your child’s life.