Every October, the LGBT community marks National Coming Out Day (NCOD) – a time to honor the bravery of LGBT people, encourage those still living in the closet to be their authentic selves, and to support each other in our coming out journeys. This October 11, we at Fenway Health celebrate our LGBT patients, staff, family, and friends, as well as the allies who support LGBT people in so many aspects of their lives. Being an ally is an incredibly important role, especially when that ally is the loved one of a newly out LGBT person.
As our new infographic for this year’s NCOD shows, LGBT people thrive when they are accepted by the people around them – most importantly, family and friends. The importance of allies will only continue to grow, as LGBT people are coming out at younger ages than ever before. Studies have shown that since the 1980s, the average age of coming out has declined from mid-20s to roughly 16-year-old today. These younger people are especially vulnerable to victimization through family abuse, bullying, incarceration, and homelessness.
Having allies within the family unit – including, but not limited to, parents or guardians – can have a tremendously positive effect on the lives of LGBT youth. Acceptance by family members is critical to mental and physical well-being. In one study, only one in three LGBT young people who experienced family rejection believed that they could have a good life as an adult. That means that a full two-thirds of LGBT youth see family rejection of their identities as indicative of unhappy lives to come. This reality is reflected in other statistics (see the above infographic) that show how rejection leads to high rates of depression, HIV/STD infection, and suicide. Truly, the support of loved ones is a matter of life and death for LGBT people.
This NCOD, get familiar with our three easy tips for being a good ally. First and foremost, listen to what the LGBT people in your life need, without making assumptions. Be willing to learn! Second, speak out against homophobic or transphobic language and behavior. Help create safe spaces for LGBT people, especially LGBT youth, who may not have anywhere else to turn. And lastly, act by supporting LGBT organizations and initiatives, and petition your elected officials to do the same. Together, we can all make coming out a safe and affirming experience for generations to come.
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