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Section 10. Anxieties About Coming Out

This section focuses on trans and gender diverse young people’s anxieties about coming out. In the first instance, please watch the video about how to react when someone comes out as LGBTQ.

This section also contains key findings from research, impactful quotes from a young person, starting points to think about what you can do as well as resources for further study. Please navigate through this section and complete the corresponding worksheet in the workbook.

So I think what led to me to actually being able to come out is I was just really tired of waiting for another day that I was gonna be confident. Because I knew it was gonna be hard either way, so I just decided to do it.

(Shane, Age 16)

Anxieties About Coming Out

Research

Trans and gender diverse youth described:

  • Experiences of marginalisation and exclusion of trans and gender diverse identities that made them extremely anxious about ‘coming out’
  • How some school staff they came out to rejected their gender identity, downplayed the significance of their disclosure, and told them that there was nothing that could be done about it
  • Receiving an invalidating response which was hugely upsetting and, in some cases, delayed their transition
  • How most school staff they came out to affirmed their gender identity and offered them emotional as well as practical support
  • How receiving an affirming and supportive response was accepted was a huge relief

International research suggests trans and gender diverse youth who:

  • lack support from a member of school staff have been found to be over four times more likely to leave school, to hide at lunch, and to receive harassment and abuse (Jones et al., 2016)
  • feel accepted and supported by school staff have an improved sense of belonging and safety within school, and that this positively effects their well-being and participation in education (Shelton and Lester, 2018)

Shane came out to a teacher in first year who said: “There’s not a lot you can do.” This left Shane feeling unheard and he bottled up his feeling. It was not until his third year when Shane raised the matter again with a member of school staff. This time he came out to his vice principal:

She was like, ‘Not really, we think well other people changed [their name] and then changed back, so ...’ […] I mentioned the fact that it's really stressing me out, people calling me she/her all the time. She's like, ‘Oh, we can't do anything about it.’

(Shane, Age 16)

As a result Shane was prevented from transitioning and so continued to be called by his birth name and pronoun by staff, which he found to be hugely upsetting.

What you can do

  • If a student comes out to you, listen to what the student has to say about their gender identity and respond positively by verbally affirming the student’s gender identity and offering emotional and practical support
  • Put up a Pride flag in your classroom/office
  • Put up a ‘safe space’ sticker on your door and poster in your classroom

Resources

Next steps

Complete ‘Worksheet 10: Anxieties About Coming Out’ and continue to Section 11: Steps to Take in Facilitating a Young Person’s Transition.