National “Coming Out” Day is marked globally every year and helps to raise awareness of the struggles faced by members of the LGBTQ+ community. It allows LGBTQ+ people to share their experiences and understand that other people like them have faced the same challenges and situations. It allows us all to look towards a future when “coming out” will be unnecessary as assumptions about peoples’ sexualities and gender identities and about what is “normal” finally fall away.
Have you ever struggled with “coming out?” If so, you’re not alone! There will be many people who are reading this right now who may be struggling with “coming out” to their friends, colleagues, and families, and from experience, it’s not easy. Two in five LGBTQ+ students (42%) have hidden their identity at university for fear of discrimination and 30% of bi men, along with 8% of bi women, say they cannot be open about their sexual orientation with any of their friends. A common misconception about “coming out” is that it’s simple and that it only has to be done once; unfortunately this couldn’t be further from the truth. There are many people that you may feel you need to “come out” to and this is only made more difficult by societal assumptions that consider “straight, cisgendered” identities to be the default and norm.
Some people argue that there isn’t any need for occasions such as National “Coming Out” Day, but many still face the struggle of “coming out” to their family, friends, colleagues and others, and feel it’s an important part of their journey to living as their true and authentic selves. National “Coming Out” Day will remain as vital as it was when it began in 1988, for as long as people feel the need to “come out” to others.
Before I came out, I struggled a lot with my mental health. Being “in the closet” really can have a negative effect on someone’s mental health. However, there is always support for anyone who is “coming out,” particularly from organisations and support networks such as The Proud Trust, Mind Out, Stonewall, and many others. From my experience, “coming out” was a very challenging experience, both emotionally and mentally, and yet from the moment I “came out” to my first friend, I felt a wave of relief.
“Coming out” opened my eyes to the treatment of LGBTQ+ people and how little LGBTQ+ topics were discussed in schools. This frustration encouraged me to get involved in local politics and activism, and so when I saw the opportunity to run as a Welsh Youth Parliament member in the November of last year, I instantly put my name down. Throughout my campaign as the representative for Cardiff Central I have strived for more education on LGBTQ+ matters and history, both inside and outside the classroom. Not only did running as a Welsh Youth Parliament member give me a platform through which I could stand up for what I believe, but it also helped me to feel more comfortable in who I am. Since becoming a member of the WYP, I have been able to share my opinions and views about LGBTQ+ topics with Government Ministers, Members of Parliaments and other influential LGBTQ+ activists with the aim of improving the current situation and making Wales a safer and more welcoming place for young people in the LGBTQ+ community.
I would like to take this opportunity to say to anyone who is currently struggling with the process of “coming out,” take your time, make your own decisions, and always remember to be who you are and who you want to be; never let anyone tell you how you can and cannot live your life. Happy “Coming Out” Day.
Ellis Peares ( he/him, ef )