Growing Up LGBT in America: Call to Action
If you are LGBT or questioning and you are considering coming out to close friends or someone in your family, it’s good to make a plan. What kind of signals are you getting from your friend or family member? Do you have enough information to answer the types of questions they might have about being LGBT? Do you know what you want to say? Do you have support? Is it the right time? Reactions may vary, and you should be prepared. Tips for coming out are available through the Human Rights Campaign.
Friends & Peers
Close friends matter. With 9 in 10 LGBT youth out to their close friends, young people are relying on close friends to be understanding and supportive. Be brave —be a friend. Learn more about being a friend and supporter through the Give a Damn campaign and the Gay–Straight Alliance Network.
At the same time, LGBT youth are twice as likely as their peers to be harassed at school. Make your school safer by being more than a bystander—be a friend to those who are bullied, tell a trusted adult, help someone being bullied get away from a bad situation, and don’t be a bully. Check out the youth section of Stop Bullying.
While these youth are heading towards greater independence, parents still shape and influence their feelings of safety and well–being. Your words and actions are being watched. Do not use demeaning speech about LGBT people. Be open to your children’s experiences, even if you are unsure or uncomfortable. Stand up for your children if they are harassed or abused due to their identity. Support and information is available at Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays, the Family Acceptance Project, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Educators set the tone in their classrooms and influence the climate throughout a school—the hallways, gyms, cafeterias, and study halls. Many LGBT youth are justly afraid to come out at school because they fear being bullied. Make your classroom safe and inclusive for all. Respond to bullying and name–calling. Consider ways to include LGBT issues and themes in your curriculum. Great resources are available at Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, Gay–Straight Alliance Network, and HRC’s Welcoming Schools.
Clergy & Religious Leaders
Congregations can be a place where LGBT youth can feel most accepted and embraced. Sadly, though, because of religious-based homophobic and transphobic messages, clergy and religious people are often the least likely group to be sought out by young people. Religious leaders need to be overt in their literature, their signage and in the pulpit about their embrace of LGBT people. Make your congregation more open through HRC’s resource, Living Openly in Your Place of Worship. If you’re Christian, see HRC’s weekly preaching and devotional commentary, Out In Scripture, for ideas about how to craft affirming LGBT messages from the pulpit or other religious resources.
68% of LGBT youth say they hear negative messages about being LGBT from elected officials; only 16% hear positive messages from politicians. Change your rhetoric—end attacks on LGBT people and instead support your LGBT constituents. Stand strong for legislation that moves equality forward. See HRC's Your Elected Officials.