But in doing so they are reportedly facing greater discrimination
In the US National Coming Out Day was launched in 1988, and by 1990 it became celebrated in all 50 states. It’s marked on October 11 each year.
This week, to coincide the national event, the Trevor Project—a 24/7 resource for LGBTQ young people— released a report exploring the association between the age at which LGBTQ youth come out about their sexual orientation, and suicide risk.
According to Medical News Today, study’s primary findings are:
- “LGBTQ youth are coming out about their sexual orientation at younger ages.
- LGBTQ youth who came out before age 13 had increased odds of suicide risk.
- LGBTQ youth who came out about their sexual orientation before age 13 reported higher rates of victimization due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- LGBTQ youth who came out about their sexual orientation before age 13 and experienced victimization reported higher rates of attempting suicide compared to LGBTQ youth who came out before age 13 but did not experience victimization.
- LGBTQ youth who came out about their sexual orientation before age 13 and had high family support reported lower rates of attempting suicide in the past year.
- LGBTQ youth who came out about their sexual orientation two or more years after first thinking they might be LGBTQ had a 56 percent increased odds of attempting suicide in the past year.”
In a statement accompanying the report, the Trevor Project’s director of research science, Dr. Myeshia Price, says:
Coming out in and of itself is not harmful to LGBTQ youth mental health—it’s more about the level of support you have, where and when you come out. These data should not discourage LGBTQ youth from coming out for fear of bullying or harassment, but rather serve as a call to action for the people in their lives—parents, family members, teachers, doctors, and other direct service providers—to create safe, affirming environments where LGBTQ youth can feel seen and supported for who they are.
Of the youth included in the report, 24 percent overall came out before they were 13 years old.
Of LGBTQ youth now 13–17 years old, 35 percent came out before reaching 13. This represents an increase in LGBTQ people who are now 18–24 years old—just 8 percent of them came out before 13.
More than half, 56 percent, of those who came out before turning 13 seriously considered suicide in the past year. Nearly a quarter of them, 22 percent, attempted suicide during that period.
“LGBTQ youth who came out at age 13 or younger had 37 perceent increased odds of a suicide attempt in the past year,” says the report.
The statistics for LGTBQ people who came out at a later age are somewhat lower: 42 percent considered suicide and 12 percent attempted it.
The report found a key driver of suicidal thoughts and suicide was victimisation due to a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
Of those who came out before age 13, 46 percent reported that they had been physically threatened or harmed as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity, compared to 34 percent of LGBTQ youth who came out later.
Thirty-one percent of LGBTQ youth who came out younger than 13 attempted suicide in the last year, nearly double the rate of those who hadn’t been victimized or those who came out later, 12 percent.
Among LGBTQ youth who came out before 13, 83 percent. experienced discrimination, with 25 percent.attempting suicide.
Associate professor Dr. Megan Gandy of West Virginia University’s School of Social Work explained to Medical News Today:
Victimization can happen in any setting, but most often it happens at schools and in un-affirming community settings. Parents can keep their child safe by advocating that schools allow symbols of affirmation such as pride flags and allow student clubs such as Gay-Straight Alliances.
Simply put, the younger a person is, the more vulnerable they are. LGBTQ+ children that are age 13 or younger have fewer personal resources available to help them combat discrimination or bullying. That is why support for LGBTQ+ people must begin in the earliest stages of a child’s life and continue throughout.
The report found that LBGTQ youth who had high support from their families had a lower attempted suicide rate, 11 percent, than those whose families offered only low or moderate support, 24 percent.
Because gendered behavior begins around 18-24 months, parents can sometimes notice a difference in their child’s assigned gender versus their gender expression very early. When this happens, parents should listen to their child’s feelings and allow them to express themselves however they feel most comfortable. Parents should not assume that their child is just acting out or looking for attention.
As a former fundamentalist Christian, Gandy was familiar with research describing the benefits of faith-based communities for their members.
Furthermore, she was aware that few of the communities studied included LGBTQ+ people and that there were studies documenting the negative impact such communities can have on LGBTQ+ individuals.
But the MCC Church in San Francisco asserts:
Coming out is a sacrament for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) people of faith because it sets us on a lifelong path of manifesting God’s grace in our lives. Coming out is crucial to our spiritual development because it starts us on a journey of integrating our GLBT identity into our whole life. Or to say it another way: embracing our GLBT identity is an invitation to go deeper in our spiritual journey.
National Coming Out Day is observed in many countries, including Australia, Canada, Croatia, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, according to the MCC.
In the United States, the Human Rights Campaign sponsors NCOD events under the auspices of their National Coming Out Project, offering resources to LGBT individuals, couples, parents and children, as well as straight friends and relatives, to promote awareness of LGBT families living honest and open lives.
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