Honoring a personal choice: how to support a friend coming out

By Brian Paul Allen ’17

Outlook President

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This is it, this is the moment… I have to tell her – she is my best friend, but how? Why am I so nervous? If she is really my friend, won’t everything be okay? Whelp, here goes nothing. “Hey, I have something that I want to talk to you about, do you have a moment?” “Sure, what’s up honey?” “Well I don’t really know how to say this,” … and I am really scared of losing you as a friend, please don’t think differently of me … “but I am gay.” “Oh Brian! I am so glad you felt safe to share this with me, you know that I support you right?” Whew, I can breathe. This was the moment I came out to my best friend in high school. The amount of nerves that vibrated throughout my body comes in as a close second to when I came out to my father, which is a whole other story that is not as pleasant. So what exactly is coming out?  It is the process in which an LGBTQ+ person unveils the most unique and extraordinary part (or parts) of their identity. Every minute of every day, LGBTQ+ people are coming out to their friends, family and sometimes even strangers, and this is sometimes an easy process, sometimes it can change someone’s life forever, and sometimes the experience can fall somewhere in between.

While many would agree that the concept of coming out is problematic because a person who identifies as heterosexual doesn’t have to say, “Hi my name is so-and-so and I am straight!”, some would argue an LGBTQ+ person should never have to come out just because they are queer.

However, it is a personal choice. The reason it may seem so important to some is because it can be one of the most liberating moments of a queer person’s life. It is the moment when a weight equivalent to an anvil is lifted off a person’s shoulders and they can finally breath again. For the people who are hearing someone’s testimony, the first step in making this process somewhat “easier” for a queer person is providing them with a safe space to come out. Beginning with empathy, love and open mindedness is a wonderful place to start. Second, allowing that person who is coming to you in confidence to say what they have to say without passing judgment or asking irrelevant questions like “who is the boy and who is the girl,” is the next step. The third step is supporting that person in one of their most vulnerable moments, and all the moments that follow. This third step is crucial; the fear of not receiving that support is so tangible for many queer people, and was the part that caused me the most anxiety when I came out to my friends and many others. So what does this all have to do with Denison?

Annually, Denison University’s Outlook hosts Coming Out Week, which is a week celebrating diversity and acceptance. This week coincides with or precedes National Coming Out Day (Oct. 11); a nationally recognized day embracing coming out. This year, Outlook will be hosting a series of events leading up to Oct. 11 celebrating the coming out process and coming together as a community.

 

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