While coming out is ‘no big deal’ for many students and other young people these days, it still makes headlines in male professional soccer, for example. Society has changed a lot in the last years and decades, towards more tolerance and openness. However, there are still some areas where there is room for improvement. To continue to support the LGBTQIA+ community, there are specific days to create more awareness, education and sensitivity to important issues, such as Coming Out Day.
What is it about?
The term translated means “coming out”, which describes the process quite well. For it is an outward coming out with one’s own truth, entrusting the social environment with one’s personal gender identity and/or sexual orientation.
Before that happens, there is an inner coming out. It is about making oneself aware to which gender one feels belonging and attracted. It can also be that no gender applies. This realization is an important step, because finding one’s own identity and self-acceptance is formative for one’s entire life. When this part is done, many come out to the outside world.
The day originated from a protest on October 11, 1987 in Washington DC, where 500,000 people demonstrated for the right to live out who they are and love who they want. Inspired by this movement, psychologist Robert Eichberg and activist Jean O’leary established Coming Out Day on that day. They wanted to encourage people to be themselves and to show that publicly.
Why is coming out still difficult?
Even though there is a more progressive mentality towards queer people today, coming out can be a more or less big hurdle. Affected people are afraid of the reaction of their peers and often imagine the worst scenario: not experiencing acceptance, being excluded or unpleasant situations because their environment does not know how to deal with the person. There is especially a lot of shame about not conforming to the norm, i.e. a heterosexual orientation and feeling like they belong to the biological sex (cis woman/man). People who conform to the heteronormative do not have to go through a coming out because this identity trait is generally expected.
Difficulties wait mainly in the bureaucracy and Germany has a lot of them. Not having the appropriate terms and having to fulfill prerequisites in gender reassignment, such as in psychological conversations with intimate, sexualized questions, can be stressful.
Queer people are often exposed to discriminatory behavior. A study from the German Youth Institute shows: every:r 2nd young person in the queer community is affected by discrimination at school/training/work, of which name-calling and insults are the most common at 55%. This is followed by overemphasis on sexual orientation/gender identity (41%) and exclusion (34%). In the wake of this, there is still a lot of prejudice due to distorted media content and too little education. And even with a comfortable reaction, many receive a label, i.e., a fixed attribution that allows little openness to change.
When a person approaches you and confides something so intimate, it is important to make them feel safe. You can do this by showing understanding as well as interest, by taking the person seriously, and by appreciating their effort and trust. Furthermore, it helps to show solidarity with the affected person e.g. on social media, but also in conversations with others. Feel free to check out our blog post on being Ally. For parents, affected persons and all others, there are some counseling centers, such as here at liebesleben.
Coming out is associated with many challenges for the person concerned. Let’s celebrate every person who faces them and has the courage to live out the real me. Let’s stand up and stand in solidarity with those affected and members of the queer community.