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National Coming Out Day: A Primer for Straight Allies

October 10, 2013

It’s 2013, the Supreme Court just killed DOMA, and Prop 8.  Talking about coming out should not be that big of a deal.  But it has only been fifteen years since a young college man was murdered in Laramie, Wyoming in one of the most violent hate crime attacks in modern history.

So with National Coming out day being Oct. 10, I decided it might be good for me to come out to all of you.  The first time I came out I was 21.  I was a sophomore in college and it was right after some of the most visible deaths from AIDS happened. 

Let me be clear, I am not lesbian, my mom is, but coming out as the daughter of a lesbian was one of the most pivotal moments of my life.  I learned so much about myself as well as the LGBT community.  So I thought it might be good to share what I learned with you. 

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender are the words LGBT stand for.  Sometimes you will see a Q at the end, which is for Queer.  The LGBT community is made up of all these people plus all of their Straight Allies.  I am considered a straight ally.

“Coming out” is the phrase used to indicate that a LGBT person tells someone they are gay. Or in the case of LGBT family members, this phrase is used to refer to the process of coming to terms with your loved one telling you that they are gay.

One goal of National Coming out day is to put the focus on the LGBT community. Some people celebrate who they are, because they have been out for some time.  For others it’s a chance to let the people in their lives know a little bit more about them by coming out.  And for Allies it’s a chance to let everyone know you support the LGBT community.

It’s been a long time since I found out my mom was a lesbian.  I have come to realize that our experience was not unique.  It was also not ideal.  I have learned so much about how to be an Ally.

Number One: Do not pull someone out of the closet.  If you overhear, or just think someone is gay, it is not ok for you to say, “Hey, I know you’re gay.” Even if the next phrase is, “and I think that is cool.”  Coming out is a very personal thing.  Remember as an Ally, your LGBT friend is not waiting for the day you tell her or him you are straight.  Sexuality is intimate; treat it that way.

Your LGBT friends will share what they want when they want.  I have decided that there is a nice compliment that comes from my LGBT friends not saying anything spectacular to me about their orientation.  For example, I have met a couple women here at TJSL who just talk to me about their wives or girlfriends.  There is no sitting down, holding hands, where they explained to me they were lesbians.  It made me feel like their equal, like their friend. 

Number Two: Try to be as supportive as you can when someone you know comes out to you.  If you feel taken aback by someone coming out to you, try not to put that on him or her.  Be as supportive as you can when you are with that person, and then go home and work it out on your own.  Our world favors straight people, so if you want to be a good straight ally don’t make your LGBT friends feel like coming out to you was a mistake.

Number Three: When you ask questions be considerate and come from a place of loving.  Do your research.  There are some really great groups that you can join as an Ally that will help you deal with number two and become educated.  I became a member of PFLAG (Parents and Family/Friends of Lesbians and Gays).  There I learned language and culture and all kinds of things that make me a well-rounded human.  Here, at TJSL you can become a member of OUTLaw. 

Whatever you do as an Ally, understand it can’t be wrong.  You are an Ally and the LGBT community needs Allies, just as much as the Allies need the LGBT community.