Come out baby!!

What does coming out of the closet mean and where and when did that saying start?

It is unclear exactly when queer people started using the closet metaphor. Still, the word may have been used initially because many men who remained ‘secretive’ thought of their homosexuality as a sort of ‘skeleton in the closet.'” It may also have come from outsiders who viewed it that way. It seems that “coming out of the closet” was born as a mixture of two metaphors: a debutante proudly stepping into the arms of a community and a shocking secret being kept in hiding. Now the community is the wider community, and the secret is no longer shocking. “Coming out” is a useful phrase, but it doesn’t necessarily imply a closet.

Since having experienced a child coming out, I have become a resource to many friends, acquaintances, and even strangers. For example, I have recently had a good friend who reached out to me who has a child who grew up as a very feminine girl. We are talking pink everything, ballerina, and now in his high school years, he is transitioning to a male. I am so proud of my friend, who has embraced this whole new world for her daughter. Additionally, I have a good friend who has discovered that their elementary-age boy is experiencing a very gender fluid scenario and enjoying as a young boy with painting his nails, wearing makeup, and only wanting to do art.

As a parent, these circumstances can be surprising and not easy to handle or accept. My main word of advice is LOVE! Give it, show it….lots of it!!! Sounds easy, right? For some, it may not be. Since June is Pride Month, I feel it is most appropriate to write a post to help those who don’t know how to handle these situations. I will give my top five ways for you, your child or anyone in this matter to have an easier experience coming out. I hope for you as a parent or friend to make whoever it is in your life to feel the love that he, she, or they deserves.

1. Child appears gay at a young age?- Accept it

If you have a child that appears gay at a young age, for example, a boy who likes to dress as a girl, paint nails, makeup, has more girlfriends than boyfriends, these things can appear as stereotypes. In my experience, these traits helped me identify my son to be queer. Do not try to change this; accept this and embrace it!!!! I cannot stress this enough. This is who they are, and if you try to change them, they are not being themselves and will be resentful to you for not accepting them the way they are. The way it is handled is of utmost importance to foster a good relationship between parent and child.

Queer children who have parents who do not accept have a higher risk of depression, suicide, drug use, and having unsafe sex. Your love and acceptance could change all of those things.

My son, Chase, was drawing rainbows almost the minute he came out of me. He loved wearing my shoes, making dresses out of fabrics, painting his nails, etc. We encouraged him to be comfortable in his own skin, but we also made sure he felt safe at home to dress up and be creative. He was still too young to understand his sexuality, he just knew he was different, and we made sure that he knows that we loved him.

Lots of love
Unconditional love all the time

2. Pinky swear? – Keep a secret

If someone is confiding in you, ask if it is secret or how confidential is it? This is their life, and if they are comfortable enough to disclose this personal information, you owe it to them to ask. Your child came out to you, but that doesn’t mean they are ready to be out with everyone. Please respect their privacy. Ask permission before discussing it with others. If you need someone to talk to, find a way to do this without violating their trust.

Regarding my son Chase, it was never a secret; as a matter of fact, I am very open and proud to talk about my gay son. Why would you not??

a secret is a secret

3. It’s not about you- Be unselfish

As a parent or a caregiver, friend, or family member of someone coming out, you need to be there. To listen. To offer tenderness. To be joyful. To celebrate. To love. If you need to process things because the news makes you angry or sad, that isn’t a weight to put on the person’s shoulders coming out. That is work that you need to do yourself, and it is extremely unfair to make someone’s coming out about you. Because it’s about them. If you can’t handle it, I suggest getting a therapist.

4. Educate yourself- Learn the lingo

So many parents or friends have no idea how to handle the news or how to react. There are many different words and phrases used about and with the LGBTQ community. Learning that language can facilitate stronger, clearer discussions with a child. Below is an extensive list that I found from USA TODAY written by Alia E. Dastagir. I learned a lot myself when researching this topic.

LGBTQ: The acronym for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer” Some people also use the Q to stand for “questioning,” meaning people who are figuring out their sexual orientation or gender identity. You may also see LGBT+, LGBT*, LGBTx, or LGBTQIA. I stands for intersex and A for asexual/aromantic/agender.

Intersex: Born with sex characteristics such as genitals or chromosomes that do not fit the typical definitions of male or female. 

Sex: The label you are assigned at birth based on your anatomical features, chromosomes and hormones. 

Gender: The societal constructions we assign people based on their sex characteristics. When you hear someone say “gender stereotypes,” they’re referring to the ways we expect people to act and behave based on their sex.

Queer: Originally used as a derogatory slur, queer has now become an umbrella term to describe the myriad ways people reject binary categories of gender and sexual orientation to express who they are. 

Sexual orientation: How a person characterizes their sexuality. There are three components of sexual orientation. Identity, behavior, and attraction

Gay: A sexual orientation that describes a person who is emotionally or sexually attracted to people of their own gender; commonly used to describe men.

Lesbian: A woman who is emotionally or sexually attracted to other women.

Bisexual: A person who is emotionally or sexually attracted to more than one gender.

Pansexual: A person who can be attracted to all different kinds of people, regardless of their gender identity. 

Asexual: A person who doesn’t fit traditional standards and expectations around sexual desire. Many people in the LGBTQ community think of sexuality as a spectrum. Asexuality is just one end of spectrum with identities (gray areas) in between. Someone who is asexual may not be sexually active but still masturbate. Or they may be attracted to people but not desire sex.

People who identify as graysexual fall somewhere between asexual and sexual on the spectrum, and can include people who experience sexual attraction rarely.  

Aromantic: A person who experiences little or no romantic attraction to others. 

Gender identity: How you feel and express your gender, which does not need to align with the sex you were assigned at birth. 

Gender role: The social behaviors that culture assigns to each sex. Examples: Girls play with dolls, boys play with trucks; women are nurturing, men are stoic. 

Gender expression: How we express ourgender identity. It can refer to our hair, the clothes we wear, the way we speak.

Pronouns: A word used instead of a noun often to refer to a person without using their name. Pronouns can signal a person’s gender. Some of the most commonly used pronouns are she/her, he/him and they/them.

Neopronouns: Words created to be used as pronouns but which are gender neutral. 

Transgender: A person whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.

Gender dysphoria: The psychological distress that occurs when a person’s gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. 

Cisgender: A person whose gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth. 

Binary: The concept of dividing sex or gender into two clear categories. Sex is male or female, gender is masculine or feminine.

Nonbinary: Someone who doesn’t identify exclusively as female or male.

Two-spirit: Used by some Indigenous people to describe a person who identifies as having both a masculine and a feminine spirit.

Genderqueer: People who reject static, conventional categories of gender and embrace fluid ideas of gender (and often sexual orientation). They are people whose gender identity can be both male and female, neither male nor female, or a combination of male and female.

Agender: Someone who doesn’t identify as any particular gender.

Gender-expansive: An umbrella term used to refer to people who don’t identify with traditional gender roles.

Gender fluid: Not identifying with a single, fixed gender. A person whose gender identity may change.

Gender non-conforming: People who don’t conform to traditional expectations of their gender.

Trans: The overarching umbrella term for various kinds of gender identifies in the trans community.

Drag kings & drag queens: People, some who are straight and cisgender, who perform either masculinity or femininity as a form of art. 

Deadnaming: Saying the name that a transgender person was given at birth but no longer uses. 

Misgendering: Referring to someone in a way that does not correctly reflect their gender identity, typically by using incorrect pronouns.

Gender-affirming care: Care that helps you live your gender identity.

Gender transition: There isn’t one way for a person to transition. Gender transition can include a range of social (new name and pronouns) medical (hormone therapy, surgery) and legal (changing a driver’s license or birth certificate) steps to help affirm one’s gender identity. 

Gender confirmation surgery: A step some transgender people take to help them feel their body aligns with their gender identity. 

Bottom surgery: A colloquial way of referring to gender-affirming genital surgery.

Top surgery: A colloquial way of describing gender-affirming surgery on the chest.  

Binding: Flattening your breasts, sometimes to appear more masculine.

Androgynous: A person who has both masculine and feminine characteristics, which sometimes means you can’t easily distinguish that person’s gender. It can also refer to someone who appears female, but who adopts a style that is generally considered masculine.

Coming out: The complicated, multi-layered, ongoing process by which one discovers and accepts one’s own sexuality and gender identity. 

Outing: Publicly revealing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity when they haven’t come out themselves yet. 

Living openly: An LGBTQ person who is comfortable being out about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Closeted: An LGBTQ person who will not or cannot disclose their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Ally: A person who is not LGBTQ but uses their privilege to support LGBTQ people and promote equality. Allies “stand up and speak out even when the people they’re allying for aren’t there,” said Robin McHaelen, founder and executive director of True Colors, a non-profit that provides support for LGBTQ youth and their families. In other words, not just at Pride parades.

Sex positive: An attitude that views sexual expression and sexual pleasure, if it’s healthy and consensual, as a good thing.

Heterosexual privilege: Refers to the societal advantages that heterosexuals get which LGBTQ people don’t. If you’re a straight family that moves to a new neighborhood, for example, you probably don’t have to worry about whether your neighbors will accept you.

Heteronormativity: A cultural bias that considers heterosexuality (being straight) the norm. When you first meet someone, do you automatically assume they’re straight? That’s heteronormativity. 

Cisnormativity: A cultural bias that assumes being cis (when your gender identity aligns with the sex you were assigned at birth) is the norm. 

Heterosexism: A system of oppression that considers heterosexuality the norm and discriminates against people who display non-heterosexual behaviors and identities. 

Cissexism: A system of oppression that says there are only two genders, which are considered the norm, and that everyone’s gender aligns with their sex at birth.

Homophobia: Discrimination, prejudice, fear or hatred toward people who are attracted to members of the same sex.

Biphobia: Discrimination, prejudice, fear or hatred toward bisexual people.

Transphobia: Discrimination, prejudice, fear or hatred toward trans people.

Transmisogyny: A blend of transphobia and misogyny, which manifests as discrimination against trans women and trans and gender non-conforming piple on the feminine end of the gender spectrum.

TERF: The acronym for “trans exclusionary radical feminists,” referring to feminists who are transphobic.

Transfeminism: Defined as “a movement by and for trans women who view their liberation to be intrinsically linked to the liberation of all women and beyond.” It’s a form of feminism that includes all self-identified women, regardless of assigned sex, and challenges cisgender privilege. A central tenet is that individuals have the right to define who they are.

Intersectionality: The understanding of how a person’s overlapping identities –including race, class, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and disability status – impact the way they experience oppression and discrimination.

I LOVE My Queer queen son

5. Get Support- Make an effort

All parents want what’s best for their kids. But providing support isn’t always easy — especially if you are the parent of a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ) child. In many ways no different from their peers, LGBTQ youth face some unique challenges that parents often feel unprepared to tackle. Team up with a pediatrician, a counselor at school, close family members, and even community organizations. Here are some organizations that can provide you support and help.

A happy lifestyle is a healthy one. But, sometimes it takes some work. For more ideas on developing a healthy lifestyle, visit my lifestyle website and read my blog on positive and healthy ways to be happy.

IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS STRUGGLING WITH THEIR CHILD’S GENDER AND NEEDS TO TALK TO SOMEONE. EMAIL ME AT BELINDA@RGGLV.COM

Ruby Rose in New York City on May 2, 2017.

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