Young people are coming out sooner and sooner each year due to the change in atmosphere surrounding the LGBTQ community.  Although it has become easier to come out at a young age, that level of self discovery is still very difficult for many teenagers.  The level of safety a young person faces also varies depending upon where he/she lives in the U.S.  What feels like nothing to one student could be really dangerous for another depending upon his/her location and community. There have been legislative steps taken to ensure that students are now safe to express themselves in any way they want.  Anti-bullying legislation varies state by state in strength and influence but regardless its existence does make a difference.

There are also many different resources for students that in the past didn’t exist.  There are programs implemented in schools like GSAs (Gay Straight Alliances) or Diversity Clubs where students can find guidance and a sense of community during the coming out process.  The internet is also full of valuable resources like websites that can connect students to helpful literature or programs in their area.  Northampton’s Pride and Joy is full of literature and gifts that are great resources for questioning and coming out youth as well as their families.

I came out when I was in the eighth grade and even though I grew up in Massachusetts in a fairly liberal town on Cape Cod it wasn’t an easy experience.  It involves a lot of self discovery and evaluation that is difficult to comprehend at such a young age.  Through most of my eighth grade year I was bullied pretty relentlessly because I was different and it was really difficult but once I got through that awkward junior high time period, everything looked up.  Once I became comfortable with myself, other people became comfortable with me.  Sometimes it can be difficult to find confidence within yourself when you barely know yourself but if you can find something that you’re passionate about then it will shine through and most of your differences will be forgotten.  No one should feel pressured to come out before they are ready but the more people willing to be themselves and take a stand for being different, the more positivity will surround the issue.  As our shirt says, “When in doubt, Come out!”