The Trevor Project’s Coming Out Handbook Can Help Young People With The Process
Coming out can be a confusing process between coming to understand your sexuality or gender identity, navigating your own feelings about that discovery, and deciding to tell others about it. Having a guide to help answer the questions you have can make that process a little easier. To coincide with National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11, The Trevor Project, an organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ young people, has produced a new coming out handbook to help youth come out to their friends, family, and the world around them.
The handbook is an in-depth support guide to the intricacies of understanding your own sexuality or gender identity and communicating it to others. It includes chapters on maintaining healthy relationships and how to take care of your own mental health. It does not provide a strict how-to for coming out because, as a statement announcing the launch sent to Bustle says, "everyone's journey, environment, and situations are different," and prioritizes safety above "coming out cheerleading."
"LGBTQ young people are constantly working to find new ways not only to survive, but to truly thrive," Gianna Mercaldo, Crisis Services Manager of Continuous Improvement for The Trevor Project, tells Bustle. "So as young people continue to define their experiences in new ways, our language must reflect the needs of the youth we serve."
The Trevor Project was founded in 1998, and since then the landscape for LGBTQ rights in the U.S. has seen many shifts, from the legalization of marriage equality in 2015 to the fight for employment protections for the LGBTQ community in the Supreme Court happening this week. The new handbook is designed to speak to how young LGBTQ people identify now, and how they might deal with the challenges of coming out as the 2020s begin.
Whether you've been out for a long time or you're a straight or cis ally, the free handbook is also worth a read. "A lot of the information about sex, gender, and attraction in this guide may be new to readers of any age. This is an area where many of us have a lot to learn, and it is never too late to expand our understanding of all the many ways people may experience and express themselves, their bodies, and their relationships with other people," Mercaldo tells Bustle. And even if you've been a part of the LGBTQ community for decades, you may still discover new ideas for your own self-care in the handbook — or simply find it useful for coming out in new environments, as coming out is a process that never really stops. "While older people may have more options in some ways, many face similar challenges in determining how to safely navigate the world in a way that feels authentic to who they are," Mercaldo says.
Coming out remains a challenging process for LGBTQ people of all ages, and the support of The Trevor Project and organizations like it is crucial for helping those who face rejection or discrimination. Mercaldo tells Bustle that the handbook is there to help everybody in the community who might need their help. "People of any age may face potential rejection, job insecurity, and a loss of their support system," they say. "Everyone deserves the tools to own and explore who they are and if and how they want to share parts of themselves with others."
Whether you identify as part of the LGBTQ community or not, being an adult who can support young LGBTQ people is crucial to helping them flourish. "Just one accepting adult can decrease the risk of LGBTQ youth attempting suicide by 40%, yet less than half of LGBTQ students are out to an adult at school. Being that one supportive adult can make a positive difference in a young person’s life," Mercaldo says. That's a very good reason to make sure that everybody is up to date with how coming out happens now, and what challenges and worries LGBTQ kids right now are facing.
National Coming Out Day may create a great opportunity for LGBTQ people to reveal their sexuality or gender identity sexual identities to those around them, but The Trevor Project is also keen to stress that coming out is a gradual process, and one that doesn't have to be undertaken in one day. "Your experience and your choices are valid," Mercaldo says. "You know yourself best and what is right for you. There is no requirement that you come out to one person or a hundred, now or ever. Only you know what feels safe and right for you. You deserve love, respect, and support."