Celebrating National Coming Out Day
National Coming Out Day is a day to celebrate the courage and resilience of individuals who have chosen to reveal their true selves to the world, often against societal norms and expectations. It is a day to honor the progress we’ve made towards a more inclusive and accepting society, while also acknowledging the ongoing challenges that many still face. Today we will shed light on the history of National Coming Out Day, extend support to those who have come out and those who are also not quite ready. We will also provide insights on coming out in the workplace with the goal of promoting equality and inclusivity.
The History of National Coming Out Day
National Coming Out Day, celebrated every year on October 11th, was first observed in 1988, on the anniversary of the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. The day was initiated as a way to empower LGBTQIA+ individuals to publicly share their sexual orientation or gender identity. Its purpose is to foster a society where everyone can live openly and authentically without fear of discrimination or prejudice.
Supporting Those Who Have Come Out
Coming out is an intensely personal journey, and for those who have taken that brave step, they deserve our unwavering support. It’s important to create a safe, welcoming, and accepting environment for them, whether it’s within the family, among friends, or at work. Respect their privacy, use the pronouns and names they prefer, and educate yourself on LGBTQIA+ issues to be a better ally. It’s also essential to celebrate their authenticity and acknowledge the strength it takes to come out.
Coming out is not a one-size-fits-all experience. LGBTQIA+ individuals should always be in the driver’s seat when it comes to deciding how, when, and with whom to come out. Your narrative belongs to you, and you should feel empowered to shape it as you see fit.
For many, coming out to family, especially when still a minor or living at home, can be particularly challenging. Rejection can have devastating consequences, and many LGBTQIA+ youth have experienced homelessness due to being rejected by their families. It’s crucial to remember that approximately one in five LGBTQIA+ adults have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives, which is more than twice the rate of their non-LGBTQ peers. When coming out to family, it’s advisable to consider practical steps like establishing financial independence or having a backup plan in case of a worst-case scenario. It can also be helpful to start by coming out to a family member who is most likely to be supportive and who can subsequently assist in approaching others.
For those who are not LGBTQIA+ but wish to be allies, there are small yet meaningful actions you can do to create a more supportive environment where LGBTQIA+ individuals feel comfortable coming out. Speaking up against injustices, using gender-neutral pronouns when unsure of someone’s identity, and engaging in LGBTQIA+ organizations and events are just a few examples of how to be a better ally.
Supporting Those Who Are Not Ready Yet
Coming out can be a deep personal journey, and some individuals may not feel prepared or safe to do so. It’s important to understand that no one should be pressured to come out before they are ready. People come out on their own terms, at their own pace. Work to create an environment where they feel safe and respected, and for friends, family, and colleagues to offer support without pressure. Here are some tips on how to do just that:
Be Patient: Coming out is a process that can take years. Some individuals need more time to come to terms with their identity and gather the courage to share it with others. Patience is a virtue when it comes to supporting those who are not yet ready to come out.
Show Unconditional Love: Reassure them that your love and support are unwavering, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Let them know that you accept and care for them, no matter what.
Avoid Assumptions: Don’t assume you know how they feel or what they need. Everyone’s experience is unique, so it’s essential to listen and ask open-ended questions to better understand their perspective.
Be a Trusted Confidant: Offer yourself as a trustworthy confidant, someone they can talk to about their feelings and experiences without judgment. Building trust is key to creating a safe space for them.
Educate Yourself: Take the time to educate yourself about LGBTQ+ issues, terminology, and experiences. This shows that you’re committed to understanding and supporting them. Create an atmosphere where LGBTQIA+ topics are part of everyday conversation. This can help them feel more comfortable when they are ready to share their own experiences.
Respect Their Privacy: Coming out is a deeply personal choice. Don’t push or pry for information if they’re not ready to share. Allow them to open up in their own time. If they choose not to come out, respect their decision. It’s not your place to push or make that decision for them. They know what’s best for their own well-being.
Maintain Open Communication: Keep the lines of communication open, so they know you’re there when they’re ready to talk. Regularly check in on their well-being and let them know they’re supported.
Celebrate Them: Celebrate their achievements, passions, and unique qualities. Let them know you’re proud of who they are, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Workplace and Coming Out
Coming out at work is an ongoing process, starting from the interview and continuing with every new encounter. In the United States, a 2020 Supreme Court ruling provided legal protections for LGBTQIA+ employees, preventing discrimination or termination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Despite these legal protections, more than four out of five LGBTQIA+ individuals still keep their true identities hidden from most people, according to a study by the Yale School of Medicine. Creating psychologically safe environments where LGBTQIA+ employees feel comfortable coming out is vital. Allyship at work is equally important, as allies should also come out to create a supportive atmosphere.
For many LGBTQIA+ individuals, the workplace can be one of the most challenging environments to come out. According to a 2020 Human Rights Campaign (HRC) report, 46% of LGBTQIA+ employees are not out at work. The same report found that 23% of LGBTQIA+ employees are not open about their identity because they fear discrimination.
However, employers who create inclusive workplaces have seen tangible benefits, including improved employee morale, productivity, and retention. Here are some ways you create a safe space within your company to allow your employees to feel comfortable about being their wholes selves at work:
- Education and Training: Offer diversity and inclusion training to all employees to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ issues, terminology, and the importance of respect. Ensure that employees understand the impact of discrimination and microaggressions.
- Inclusive Policies: Develop and enforce nondiscrimination policies that explicitly protect LGBTQ+ employees from discrimination, harassment, and bias. Extend healthcare benefits to include transgender healthcare needs.
- Employee Resource Groups (ERGs): Support the establishment of LGBTQ+ ERGs within your organization. These groups provide a sense of community and can offer valuable insights to leadership.
- Leadership Commitment: Encourage company leaders to publicly support LGBTQ+ inclusion. Their commitment sets the tone for the entire organization.
- Allyship Programs: Promote allyship by encouraging employees to become allies for their LGBTQ+ colleagues. Allies play a crucial role in creating a supportive workplace.
- Safe Spaces: Designate areas or virtual channels where LGBTQ+ employees can connect, share their experiences, and seek support from one another.
How Equality Careers Can Help on National Coming Out Day:
At Equality Careers we are committed to promoting inclusivity in the workplace and connecting job seekers with LGBTQIA+ friendly and diverse job opportunities through our inclusive job board. On National Coming Out Day, you can use Equality Careers to make a difference. Explore our extensive job listings from companies that prioritize diversity and inclusion. If you’re an employer, use our platform to upload job opportunities that reach a diverse range of candidates. Be recognized as an equal opportunity employer and a LGBTQIA+ friendly company.
National Coming Out Day is a reminder of the progress we’ve made in creating a more inclusive society. It’s also a call to action to continue supporting those who have come out and those who are not ready yet. We must remember that coming out is a deeply personal journey, and we should never force anyone to reveal their identity before they are ready. In the workplace, we have a responsibility to create safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ individuals, ensuring that everyone can bring their authentic selves to work. By working together, we can build a world where everyone can live openly, authentically, and without fear of discrimination or prejudice.