Coming out refers to telling people that you aren't straight. These days, kids are coming out younger than ever before. When I was a teen in the 1990s, some teens came out in high school, but a lot more waited until college to do so. Now, middle schools across the country have openly GLBT kids.
There are a lot of reasons kids are coming out earlier. A lot of these, (like the fact that there is more support for GLBT issues and more awareness of them), are really positive. But while it can be great to be open about who you are from a young age, coming out in middle school can present unique challenges. Here some kids share their experiences and fears regarding coming out in middle school.
Hearing the Phrase, That's So Gay Every Time You Turn Around
"I'm 14. I live in a small hick town in Florida and I came out last year in 7th grade. Most everyone knows now because I'm going out with someone but what I’ve noticed is that A LOT of my teachers say absolutely nothing when a kid says “That's so gay.” I have a teacher right now who is pretty cool but a few weeks ago a boy in my class said, ”That's so gay” and she agreed with him saying, “That is so gay.” I’ve often thought about saying something to her before or after class but I never work up enough courage to actually do it. I'm not afraid of her. I just respect her as a good teacher. I think she just tries to hard to be that ‘cool and hip’ teacher that everyone likes more than the teacher that shows discipline."
Being Told You Are Too Young to Know for Sure
"I came out in middle school, and I meant with all my heart that I was bisexual. People insisted that I was confused and didn’t know what I was talking about. The younger you are, the more clueless people assume you to be. Also, many of my teachers still let homophobic comments pass, and never point out how wrong it is, just like racist comments are. It really pushes my buttons, and I hope that one day I can go to school without hearing the word “gay” being used incorrectly."
Knowing Your Friends Would Support You, But Fearing Your Parents Wouldn't
"I’m in middle school. I’m gay (I’ve known since 5th grade, but kind of subconsciously knew my whole life, if that makes sense) and would I love to come out if I could bring myself to do it. My friends are really accepting of gay people (we participate in the Day of Silence every year), but one of my parents works in the school building, so if I came out, she would eventually find out and I don’t want to tell my parents yet because I have a really homophobic father."
Different Reactions, But Feeling a Lot Better After Coming Out
"I’m in 7th grade. I’m 13 and I live with my mom (dad died). I came out to my mom when I was 12, last year. The first person I ever talked about it to was my best friend in 4th grade. I live in a very small town that is real boring. I have come out to a lot of my friends and some I hint it to, and some simply don’t care what I say around them. If I had kept it a secret I wouldn’t have friends who accepted me and an amazing girlfriend (ok, so maybe my mom thinks we are just friends..I’m working on that…). People think I’m weird and crazy. But, I don’t really care. I used to, but now, I’m like, I don’t care. Rumors come and go. But I’m really happy. Plus, suprisingly older and younger people confess their same-sex crushes to me and some have even came out to me. Just be yourself. It’s a lot better than pretending.
"I’m 12 and gay. I just don't know what to do at my school. Lots of my friends make fun of gay people. I just know if I tell them they'll never treat me the same. I’ll always be that weird gay kid. I’m so in love with one of my friends. He’s really cute and has long emo hair (So cute!). I don’t know if he’s gay but I’m hoping he is. I’m only out to my mom and I don’t know what my dad will think. I dread the thought of telling my friends.
As these testimonies show there are some benefits to coming out in middle school and some drawbacks. On the plus side, you get to be yourself from an early age and don't have to hide a significant part of your identity. On the minus side, since many middle schoolers are dealing with their own insecurities and are figuring out who they themselves are, it is a time when teasing is at an all time high.
Coming out can be a great experience, but it can also be one that not everyone is ready for. No one should come out if they think doing so would be unsafe or too emotionally difficult at home or at school!