I am going to be a senior in high school this year, and luckily I’m out of the closet. However…I just moved to another school. While I know that my sexuality is my business, and mine alone, being in the closet sucked. So…should I come out “again” at my new school? Or should I just hold out for the year and keep certain secrets, well, secret? —Anthony
Dear Anthony,I think Kort makes an excellent point about privacy v. secrecy. The advice that I would have given Anthony is to be himself. I wouldn't go around announcing that I was gay, but I wouldn't try to change who I was to hide it either. Just let things progress naturally. I can say this, I hope that Anthony has a good school environment. Often, students espouse the fears and hatred that they hear from adults and in high school most of them have not become the person they will be, they have not formed their core identity yet, and their belief structure is still a work in progress. If Anthony lives in a more liberal atmosphere, then the students will often reflect that in the way that they treat people. However, if Anthony lives in a more conservative (Bible Belt) atmosphere, then the students will often reflect that conservatism in the way that they treat people as well.
This is a good but tricky question.
While I am always one to lean more toward coming out of the closet, I am also always conscious of safety factors—both emotional and psychological.
I have seen it go both ways in high schools: teenagers come out and are embraced by their peers or they’re humiliated and ridiculed.
I often see it work out better for the teens who choose to come out when a gay student has a history with other students in his or her school – they’ve gone to middle school and elementary school together, for instance. When other youth have known you for a long time and have had many different kinds of experiences with you before knowing that you’re gay, it may be easier for them to accept you.
When you come out without your fellow students knowing you at all, all they see is gay and not who you are.
This is the risk you are taking by coming out as a new senior in a school where most of the kids have most likely known each other most of their lives.
I like to distinguish between privacy vs. secrecy. People tend to confuse the two and they are very different.
Privacy is a choice you make that considers your boundaries and personal choices and preferences when deciding how much you want to share about yourself . It doesn’t involve feelings of shame.
Someone might decide not to expose how much money they make for a living, political views, real hair color, or sexual fantasies and behaviors. No because they are ashamed of these things, but because they want to keep things personal for individual reasons.
Secrecy involves shame and a feeling of being damaged or flawed and tends to come into play when someone is hiding something not by their own choice. Secrets keep us sick, say some 12-step groups, and it’s true - the more you hide things about yourself of which you are ashamed, the more you will tend to act out problematic behaviors.
Shameful things often include histories of sexual abuse, weight gain or loss and addictions.
It sounds to me that if you decide not to come out that it will be a matter of privacy and not secrecy – because as you are already out!
So before you come out in your new school, I want you to make sure that you will not be risking your physical safety. Perhaps you could schedule a counseling session with one of the counselors and get a feel for what he or she thinks about the situation based on the students in the school.
But be aware that the counselor may have their own homophobia as well and the advice may be prejudiced, depending on how ga- informed and friendly they are.
One commenter responded: As a teacher (retired), I would strongly urge anyone considering to come out at school, whether a student, teacher or other school community member to determine first if your school has a toxic, tolerating, accepting or celebrating atmosphere for LGBT and Questioning persons. If your school is toxic, you will not get any support and may be blamed as the cause of your own trouble. On the other end of the spectrum, a celebrating school welcomes both students, staff and parents who are from the LGBT community – and you will likely even find a Gay-Straight Alliance at that school. Tolerating schools and accepting schools fall in between the two ends of the spectrum. In a tolerating school, you may find limited support but will be told to keep your sexuality to yourself. In an accepting school, you will find staff who will stand up and support you, but only in a celebrating school are you likely to find teachers who are also “out.”
What advice would you give?