October 11th is National Coming Out Day!
Coming Out is different for everyone. Sometimes it’s intentional. Sometimes it’s an accident, or a necessity, or a really awkward experience. Sometimes it’s because your mom gets on the phone while you’re dishing to your younger sister about your hot same-sex crush (True Story.) Sometimes the bouncer checking your ID at a dance rudely remarks that your birth sex doesn’t match your presenting gender. And sometimes, the reaction isn’t what you expected.
Coming Out has changed a lot over time. In the 1980s, the average age a gay man or lesbian woman came out was between age 19 and 23 (Troiden 1988). In 2010, the average age when an LGB person first comes out to someone is 16 years old (Savin-Williams 2005). Less research has studied the ages that transgender and genderqueer people come out to others.
Those statistics don’t mean that you should come out to family and friends at that age, or even that all LGBTQ people fully know or embrace their gender expression and/or sexual orientation by age 16. Not to mention, it can all change when you get older. What those statistics do show is that teens can and do express their own understanding of sexuality and gender, at whatever age they feel comfortable.
You’re the expert on who needs to know, what, and when. Since coming out can be different for everybody, the Human Rights Campaign, who runs National Coming Out Day, has a number of Resources for Coming Out in different communities and situations.
No matter what’s in your closet, we hope you can celebrate today with a little of this.
Savin-Williams, R. C. (2005). The new gay teenager. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Troiden, R. R. (1988). Homosexual identity development. Journal of Adolescent Health, 9, 105.