In the spirit of giving, many of us have no idea what to give to other people (seriously, people can be super picky). But this holiday season, maybe the best thing to give to someone is support if they come out to their family and friends over winter break.
Allison Subasic, the director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Ally (LGBTA) Student Resource Center, says that the holidays are a popular time for students to come out to their families and friends back at home.
“They go away to college and get excited about being who they are,” Subasic says. “So they want to go home and come out to everyone. They want that same support they get at Penn State at home.”
For anyone coming out, Subasic says that preparation is the most important part. It’s difficult to exactly predict how the coming-out experience will be, but it’s best to be aware and ready of possible outcomes.
“Make sure you think about college plans could be affected,” Subasic says. “Make sure you have a back-up plan and have a way to continue your education if your family decides not to support you anymore.”
Subasic also suggests having resources and hotline numbers just in case you need a friendly face or a safe place to go after coming out. To anyone who isn’t coming out but knows someone who may be coming out, she says you can be their greatest support.
“Just be there to listen if the person needs to talk,” Subasic says. “You don’t have to fix anything or do anything else. Some people just need to be heard sometimes.”
If your friend needs some encouragement and wants you to be involved, you can make a ‘positive sandwich’: talk to them right before they come out so you can help them feel supported and figure out what they’re going to say. Afterward, talk to them about what happened and give them more encouragement.
“Be there for them if things don’t go well,” Subasic says. “They’re going to need someone to help them through it. Learn about different resources in your area so you can help point them in the right direction.”
Coming out can be a difficult time but Subasic says they can also be times of joy as people take that step and find support from back home.
“It’s hard and it’s scary,” Subasic says. “But it’s a process and it will be worth it to you in the long run. You will find support somewhere no matter who you are.”
Photo by Shantelle Williams