Just before and after the coming out process, LGBTQ youth are at highest risk for suicide. While the coming out process can be an acknowledgment of one’s own gender identity and/or sexual orientation, it doesn’t have to be done publicly. Coming out to oneself is just as valid. However, many LGBTQ youth experience high levels of stress and anxiety about the process of coming out — before, they may worry about what their friends and parents will say, possible victimization, and how they will be treated at school; after, they may have to grapple with a possible loss of their support system. In fact, more than one-third of LGBTQ youth lose friends through the coming out process and those from highly rejecting families are eight times more likely to attempt suicide.
Because National Coming Out Day can be especially triggering for LGBTQ youth, The Trevor Project wanted to show our support of all, regardless of whether people chose to come out or not. Our Crisis Services Director, Ashby Dodge, made a video with the Suicide Prevention Resource Center about the necessity of forming culturally competent care with the LGBTQ community, including forming workshops and trainings about recognizing differences between gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, and biological sex, as well as asking about gender pronouns and identities, and not making judgements or assumptions. With such culturally competent environments, we can build a more accepting future in which LGBTQ youth feel more open to seeking help, support systems, and resources.
To focus on building a supportive community for LGBTQ youth for National Coming Out Day, we shared a series of life-affirming images throughout the week on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Facebook. We also prepared a Twibbon campaign in which over 1000 folks participated in just a few hours, sharing that The Trevor Project was a resource for LGBTQ youth who were struggling through the coming out process. The Advocate featured our photo campaign, we highlighted our coming out resources on social media, and we saw many youth reach out to us.
To continue our support of LGBTQ youth, on October 15, we participated in nonprofit GLAAD’s Spirit Day, which aims to raise awareness about bullying prevention efforts in the LGBTQ community. We dressed in purple with our partners at Kimpton and offered tips on bullying prevention across our social media channels. GLAAD also featured us on their blog, showing how nonprofits banded together to raise awareness. Showing LGBTQ youth we care and that we are here for them is key to preventing suicide, and doing so in an engaging way was powerful for our community this month.