Coming out getting easier — but not for all teens

Gabriella Backus, Online Editor-in-Chief

All people must overcome many hurdles throughout their lifetime; although these obstacles vary from person to person, LGBTQ individuals must face one additional but necessary hurdle: coming out.

While growing up, many people question their sexual and gender identities and eventually must come to terms with who they are and what they identify as. For teens realize they aren’t straight or cis, this process can lead to the need to come out to those close to them to lift such a heavy burden off their chest.

For some, coming out to family, friends and others can be a relief — especially if they have parents that are supportive and accepting.

“I’m out of the closet,” sophomore Alex Rubio said. “My friends didn’t care at all, and my parents don’t care about it. But I’m blessed for my experience to be simple and to not have any bad reactions.”

Students struggling with coming out may also find themselves halfway in the closet and halfway out: staying closeted to their parents but being open around friends or even teachers.

“It’s tricky because I don’t care who knows at school, but as soon as my parents step foot on campus, my anxiety raises a lot,” senior Sammi Maynard said. “During ‘Romeo and Juliet’ — my girlfriend and I played the leads — if my parents and friends were close together in the audience and my friends said something that raised suspicion… I was very anxious that entire show that someone would say something and my parents would be in a huff.”

“Everybody I know knows, but there are some social situations where I’ll keep it to myself because I think it’ll make everything awkward,” senior Julian Chan said. “Like, when I meet new people, most people assume I’m straight, and you never know if people are homophobic.”

Even after fully coming out, students may face adversity that can force them to retreat back into the closet. They may be told their feelings are just a phase, or, in dire situations, threatened to be disowned by family members or disregarded by close friends.

“The way my mom found out was that I had to write a bullying statement, and I wrote that I’m gay,” junior Matthew Huerta said. “My mom sat me in a room and she said ‘it might be a phase,’ but I didn’t care because I knew myself. It’s my mom, I’m always gonna love her.”

According to various studies by Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), 86 percent of LGBT youth recall being harassed for their sexual or gender orientation at their school.

The anti-LGBT behavior doesn’t stop after childhood; most countries don’t protect LGBT rights in the workplace, including the U.S. Twenty-eight state governments offer no protection against sexual orientation discrimination, and 30 states offer no discrimination protection for transgender people. No matter the degree to which students come out, many live their lives expecting harassment of some degree.

LGBTQ students are often forced to develop mental barriers to protect them from harm and to learn to ignore the hate altogether and focus on themselves.

“I’ve dealt with people infrequently who would yell ‘faggot,’” junior Ryan Duff said. “I’m pretty sure someone threw a water bottle at me once, but it missed. When they say things, I don’t care anymore… nothing really fazes me.”