Do We Really Need to "Come Out" in 2021?
Oct 07, 2021
I joined a networking group last month. At our first meeting, a tall blond woman asked me "Oh is homophobia still even a thing? I'm surprised you run an entire organization that is fighting it. I thought the younger generation didn't even care."
Yes. Homophobia is still a thing. Therefore coming out is still a thing.
I came out at 38, after being a Mormon suburban housewife for 17 years. When I came out, I lost my church, my business, and my entire social network. I gained an entirely new community of friends who cheered on my coming out process.
Looking back I realized that how people reacted to my Coming Out
was a massive tell in how our relationship would progress. Almost all of my then-current friends and family said to me "Well, I love you no matter what." It's three years later and hardly any of them are still speaking with me. Once my partner and I moved in together, it was radio silence. Apparently, that was beyond the "no matter what".
The ones who responded with "What courage, Elena. You're being your authentic self even though you're going to face so much backlash. I admire that and I value you and your experience." Those people are still with me today.
But what about those of the "younger generation"? Do they still actually need a Coming Out? Or have things changed that much for them?
Gen Z is identifying as LGBTQ+ at 33% in the US and the UK. Yes, they are incredibly more accepting than generations before. My own teen boys, ages 17 and 19, are very much aware of LGBTQ+ issues and not assuming someone's sexuality or gender. And they were raised in a very conservative social bubble so that's saying something.
But if the roles had been reversed, and it was them coming out to me, I would have been shocked. I would have needed time to think and figure things out. I would have needed that time to mourn the future I had assumed was ahead of them and embrace their new future.
It's not just the LGBTQ+ people who have to come out. My kids have to come out as having a lesbian mom every time one of their friends comes over. My fifth grader has to come out to her teachers who assume she has a "Mom and Dad" at home. My 72-year-old Dad takes great pride in coming out to his golf course cronies as a "Rainbow Dad". It's the best and the worst.
As is every coming out journey. It's the best and the worst. And it's still a thing.
About the Author:
Elena Joy Thurston is an inspirational LGBTQ+ speaker, trainer, and founder of the nonprofit Pride and Joy Foundation. Her TEDx talk has been viewed 40k+ times. She recently co-wrote Thriving in Business.