National Coming Out Day

October 11 is National Coming Out Day. This awareness day promotes an environment where everyone can live openly and honestly, and we believe conversations can make that world a reality.

The Data on Coming Out

The CDC estimates there are 1.3 million young people who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual. For this group, data from the Pew Research Center shows that there’s typically a gap between knowing one’s sexual orientation or gender identity (median age of 17) and coming out to family or friends for the first time (median age of 20).

This gap signals that coming out is a challenging process with many factors at play. The HRC has surveyed the experiences of LGBT youth ages 13-17 as it relates to coming out. Their report found that:

  • 61% of participants were out at school, and 56% were out to their immediate family
  • Youth who are out to their immediate family were more likely to be happy than those who are not (41% vs. 33%)
  • Youth who are out to their immediate family are twice as likely to have a trusted adult they could talk to (63% vs. 31%)
  • Out youth were slightly more likely to have experienced harassment at school. Among youth who were not out at school, the most common reason was concern that they would be “treated differently or judged” (31%), with 26% saying they did not feel they needed to come out. Another 9% feared bullying if they came out.

The Role of a Supportive Adult

The age when someone comes out tends to be in their teens or early 20’s, often overlapping with high school and college years. This data starts to reveal the barriers to coming out that take place at school. Fears and realities of harassment, bullying, and fitting in at school greatly affect one’s mental health. In fact, LGBTQ students are 2-3 times more likely to be threatened or assaulted compared to their peers. It’s no wonder then that more discrimination contributes to higher rates of suicide attempts among LGBTQ youth.

There are 1.3 million young people who deserve to navigate adolescence with as much safety and support as their straight and cisgender peers. That’s where a supportive adult comes in. These students need adults who foster a safe environment and space for LGBTQ students. When students are coming out or talking about their needs, a supportive adult is someone who is prepared to engage with them and understands their challenges.

Impacting LGBTQ Youth Through Conversation

As mentioned above, youth who are out are twice as likely to have a trusted adult they could talk to, and studies show that when an LGBTQ student can identify at least one supportive adult in their environment, their risk for suicide can decrease. Our users are stepping up to be that adult. Our role-play simulations help adults and peers navigate effective tactics and pitfalls of having conversations that make LGTBQ youth feel supported and respected. In our analysis of 1,390 Step In, Speak Up! participants in 45 schools across 5 states, we found that educators, administrators and school staff had moved from awareness of the problem into action.

  • 90% reported an increase in their ability to discuss concerns with students being teased, harassed, or bullied
  • 53% intervened with students who revealed that they were LGBTQ and being teased, harassed or bullied
  • 51% connected a student to support services because they were being teased, harassed or bullied
  • 54% talked with a teased, harassed or bullied student after class to see if they were OK
  • 59% talked with a student after class because of their use of discriminatory language against an LGBTQ student.

In Kognito’s LGBTQ on Campus simulation, one of the role-play conversations involves coming out. One user wrote that it was helpful to put themselves in someone else’s shoes: “I liked how we got to have a conversation about coming out to someone and to see how hard it could be.”

These individual interventions add up to make a big difference. So on National Coming Out Day and every day, we acknowledge and thank all peers and educators who are preparing to better support LGBTQ students.

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