It’s 2020, so why do members of the LGBTQ+ community still feel like they have to come out? Everyone’s experience is different and of equal importance. Some describe their moment as a big reveal and a right of passage. Others describe a sense of duty to members of the community, a moral responsibility to demonstrate that they are not alone. But for many, coming out leads to familial rejection and a world of abuse.
In a society so desperately moving away from labels, preconceptions and stereotypes, we can still be so obsessed with this one. Surely, coming out is a tired narrative. It enforces the idea that members of the community have something to hide and demonstrates that heterosexuality is still presumed. While it’s important for people to celebrate their individuality, and announce to their friends, family and the world exactly who they really are – it seems at this point we should be wondering why they are presumed to be anything other than that.
Coming out shouldn’t and doesn’t impose an obligation to stick with one sexual orientation forever. As a society, we have created this environment where people are forced to “come out” and label their sexuality and ultimately, people are still facing suffering that would not otherwise have been exposed to. The irony is that often, people are still discovering their sexual identities when they make such announcements and in many circumstances, while they may not be sure that they are gay, the certainty simply derives from the assurance they aren’t straight.
This is not to disregard the importance of representation, or the cathartic nature of coming out that benefits so many in coming to terms with who they are and sharing that with friends and family. Sexuality is fluid and society should be too.
Being able to come out can be a huge milestone. But it’s also an ongoing process. An often stressful string of occurrences, a continuing conversation, that people have to go through every day, to strangers, colleagues, friends and friends of friends. But as a result of coming out, young LGBT people are increasingly forced onto the streets, often having suffered parental rejection, familial physical, sexual and emotional abuse and familial aggression and violence.
Artist Bradley Kerl has created two designs in support of AKT, Set up in Manchester out of an awareness of the rejection and ejection of young LGBT people from their family homes, within schools and society, AKT has been helping vulnerable young people since 1989. As the first ever service for homeless LGBT youth, AKT aimed to provide a safe place for these young people and the opportunity for them to meet good people to model themselves on.
Over 70% of young LGBT people living on the streets believe that their sexual/gender identity was a causal factor in being rejected from their homes. Once homeless, young members of the LGBT community are significantly more likely to experience targeted violence, sexual exploitation, substance misuse and physical & mental health problems than other homeless youths. Their experiences are often associated with the significantly higher levels of mental and physical ill health reported by homeless LGBT young people – and again further exacerbated by a limited understanding and regular assumption of heterosexuality when they finally do reach out for support.
Ultimately, there is a lack of statutory requirements and limited resources available to support young LGBT homeless people. While this community continue to be one of the most disenfranchised and marginalised groups in society, AKT’s strategy is focused on establishing a stronger national profile for LGBT youth homelessness, raising awareness and identifying better solutions. Working towards providing outreach and support to ensure future prevention and early action reduces the long-term effects on these young peoples’ lives.