I can never ever forget how powerful it was for me to see out queer folks when I was a closeted teen. They were risking safety and livelihood to be out in that conservative county I was raised in. I fed on their bravery. Seeing them was food for my starving soul. I would count the long weekend hours until Monday morning when I would see the dyke teacher at my high school. Just seeing her swagger down the hallway in doc martins and faded jeans gave me hope enough to make it through another day.
Coming out for me, like so many others was incredibly dangerous. The price for queerness was extremely high – it cost me my home, family, and the community i’d grown up in. And yet, queerness has given me more than I ever could have imagined in those dark closeted days. Being out has afforded me a loving chosen family, work that I truly feel called to do, and so much more. For me, there has been no greater freedom than being out, but I say that knowing that I have and continue to be incredibly lucky. For far too many, coming out means falling through another set of cracks of systems not designed to support our kids, and a community not ready to take them in.
Last year, for the month of October we started an online storytelling campaign called ‘Come Out, Kicked Out’ designed to provide an opportunity for folks in the community to write, draw, take a picture, or make a video coming out about their experiences with queer teen homelessness, and for allies within our community to stand up in solidarity with current and former homeless LGBTQ youth to talk about how they have seen this epidemic impacting their community. Every day of October a different story was shared on our website with the idea of putting more faces and stories to this epidemic and to break down the profound stigma that still exists within the LGBTQ community about owning a history of teen homelessness or biological family disownment. You can find all of last year’s incredible stories here. If you find yourself inspired by the incredible stories shared last year we’re always looking for guest posts. Email your stories to email@example.com
The thought I’d like to end with on Coming Out Day is the hope that when we as queer folks shout COME OUT! COME OUT! we must be sure that we as a community are prepared not just pay lip service to welcoming those youth into our “family” we must truly be prepared to open our homes, wallets, ears and hearts to ensure that the youth who pay a heavy price for heeding our call are not abandoned by the very community they have lost everything to be part of.