Individuality in a young person is so important. It’s how we learn to set ourselves apart from the crowd. It can involve a plethora of aspects. Starting with age, and appearance, through to your hobbies and pastimes, down to things like sexuality and gender expression. Many young people at GCSE age tend to figure out and explore their sexuality and gender. Some of you, only to find you are not like the others. For the last couple of decades, it has become the social norm to “come out” to your friends and family. This allegedly allows LGBT youth live authentically and be as “you” as you can possibly be. This however, in certain circumstances, can be quite problematic for LGBT+ youth.
It is important to remember that no matter whether you’ve “come out” or not, you and your identity are still valid. Your peers’ or loved ones’ awareness of your identity, nor their acceptance, doesn’t make it any less or more valid.
Religion and heritage:
Furthermore, many young people avoid coming out due to the fact that they come from a certain religious or national background. Some of which definitely are not as accepting of LGBT+ identities as we’d wish. This can put young people at risk. If you judge it is not safe to reveal this aspect of your identity to your loved ones because of the fear of the possible repercussions, please remember your safety is more important than your loved ones being aware of whom you find attractive, or your chosen means of identification.
Independence and environment:
Being in your teens, you are still dependant on an adult care-taker. Whether that’s a parent or otherwise, it would be unwise to risk your safety to reveal such delicate information too early. If you judge it is not safe for you to tell your family, don’t. There is a reason many people wait until they are independent before they start living authentically as themselves. The environment you’re in is likely to change. And sooner than you think. Assuring your personal safety should therefore be the priority at all times.
Some families are simply not as supportive as others, which creates issues en masse for young LGBT+ people, including familial tensions. Do not let this discourage you however, parents and carers are not your enemies. More likely than not, if you explain politely, they’ll listen and try to understand. It is very unnerving to keep a secret of such calibre to yourself, and if you feel like you need to speak to someone about it, make sure it is somebody you trust- a friend, a family member, or your favourite teacher. Support systems are important. Build yours up, until you feel comfortable enough to let people know your identity.
It’s very difficult to balance out the possibilities of what the outcome of letting your loved ones in on this particular aspect of your life might be. It’s even harder to try to apply a one-size-fits-all bit of advice to all the possible situations of all LGBT+ teens. This is due to the fact that every coming out story is so different and unique, as is every individual. If there is a single lesson to take away here, it’s:
Authenticity is important, as is living as the most “you” version of you, but if that means putting yourself at risk of harm, whether that’s physical or emotional, please find the right balance of circumstances, the right time and the right place.
Don’t feel pressured to come out, do it on your on terms, and don’t let the exterior influences sway you to make this decision when you’re not quite ready.
Stay safe, stay authentic and most importantly stay you.