June marks LGBTQ Pride month. It’s held in June each year to honour the Stonewall Riots that took place in New York in 1969, where trans women of colour led an uprising to resist police harassment. Pride month is seen as both a celebration of the LGBTQ community and an opportunity to protest the inequalities that still exist. Events happen across the globe, and attention increases each year as more and more corporations support Pride.
As a queer person, Pride month is an important time. Coming out as pansexual in my 30s was a relatively easy process. I told my Dad and close friends, who are all liberal in their thinking and so on the whole, reactions were positive. There were lots of questions, and there still are about which gender of person I will end up with. It seems people really struggle with the concept of love regardless of gender identity or biology. One of the main things I realised is that coming out doesn’t happen just once. It’s ongoing and happens in lots of different situations. Sometimes it’s a conversation I don’t feel comfortable having and so I steer the conversation away. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like coming out, it’s just a natural conversation about my love life. Other times it can feel awkward, especially because everyone I meet assumes I am straight and some can be openly surprised that I’m not.
With so much focus on LGBTQ issues during Pride month, it can be a really difficult time if you are struggling with your sexuality, gender identity, or you’re not out yet. The pressure to come out and celebrate your identity in a loud and proud way can add to the complex emotions that surround LGBTQ issues.
4 things to remember
1. The clock isn’t ticking
Firstly, you don’t actually have to “come out”. Telling friends, family and colleagues is a very personal choice and one you shouldn’t feel forced to make. It’s completely up to you if you want to tell people and if you do, it’s also up to you who you tell, how you tell them and when you tell them. The conversation is on your terms and if you do want to share your sexuality or gender identity but feel nervous about how friends and family might respond, seek the support of professional services and groups who can help guide and advise you. A great place to start to find services in your area is the Stonewall website.
2. The F factor
Friends and family are the people that LGBTQ people often fear coming out to the most because it matters what our nearest and dearest think and feel about us. Your friends and family might have lots of questions and they might not respond as positively as you would like, but their initial reaction won’t be reflective of how they will always feel. It can be very upsetting to have to justify your sexuality or gender identity but remember, no matter how people react, you are worthy of love and respect. Don’t allow or accept homophobia or transphobia and be willing to end the conversation if you are feeling uncomfortable.
3. The law is on your side
Many LGBTQ people worry about how coming out might negatively affect their position at work. In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 legislates against discrimination and harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender reassignment (gender identity) in employment and vocational training. This means that it is illegal for companies and colleagues to discriminate harass or victimise you either directly or indirectly for being an LGBTQ person. If you do feel that you are experiencing discrimination in the workplace, tell a manager, union representative or Human Resource Manager or contact the Citizens Advise Bureau for support and signposting.
4. Be proud in your own way
The beautiful thing about you is your uniqueness. Every person experiences the world in their own way and that’s exactly as it should be. Openly LGBTQ people who identify in the same way as you either in terms of sexuality or gender identity should be a comfort and inspiration but not a blueprint. Do what feels right to you and be unapologetically authentic.
Your mental health
Evidence gathered by the Mental Health Foundation suggests people identifying as LGBTQ are at higher risk of experiencing poor mental health due to a range of factors such as discrimination, isolation and homophobia. However, coming out doesn’t have to be a negative experience and allows you to feel free and live your life in your way. Be gentle with yourself and your emotions during the coming out process and always reach out if you need support:
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