Wellbeing Wednesdays Podcast: The Coming Out Process

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Courtney sits down with Brad Grimes, Program Coordinator with the WVU LGBTQ+ Center, to talk about the process of coming out. They chat about why it can be scary, fulfilling, and everything in between! For more information on the programs and services provided by the LGBTQ+ Center at WVU, visit their website, https://lgbtq.wvu.edu/, or follow them on social media! Twitter: @WVULGBTQ  Instagram: @wvulgbtqcenter

All right, everyone. Welcome. Welcome. Welcome to Wellbeing Wednesdays. I am your host, Courtney Weaver. I’m also the director of Well WVU here at West Virginia University. And with me today, so excited, is Brad Grimes. He is the program coordinator for the LGBTQ+ Center. We worked together on a few different things, but I feel like we need to work together all the time.

I’m so excited to have him here. So Brad welcome. And if you want, can you take a second, just to tell everyone about your role here at the universe. Sure. Hi Courtney. It’s great to be here with you. So my name is Brad Grimes. I use he him pronouns and I am the program coordinator here at the LGBTQ+ Center.

And in that role, I helped develop and implement the LGBTQ+ Centers, programs, activities, and initiatives. I present educational, safe zone and transgender safe zone trainings to students, faculty, staff, community members, sometimes statewide. And I supervise the LGBTQ+ Center student ambassadors.

So it’s such a pleasure to be here with you and talking about coming out for national coming out day, which just happened yesterday, October 11th. That happens every year on October 11th. So thank you for having me. It’s great to be. Yes. All right. And like Brad said national coming out day was well on the day we’re recording this.

It was yesterday, but all the day, this is released it’s over a week and a half ago at that point, but that’s okay. But it’s on October 11th every year. And Brandon, can you give a brief history of what this day is and like how it came about. Sure. So it was established in 1988 on the first anniversary of the first major March for queer rights in Washington DC.

And that was an event, of course, that resulted in the founding of several LGBTQ plus organizations. It grew, it was celebrated in a couple states, but I think as early as 1990, it was celebrated in all 50 states and Th th the takeaway, I think it was founded because the, the foundational idea is that homophobia and discrimination and things like that thrive when in silence and ignorance and fear.

Right? So, you know, so many people, I feel like somebody heterosexual, cisgender people think, well, you know what? I am not that invested in gay rights because I personally don’t know any. Who is LGBTQ or gender non-conforming gender, non-binary, whatever. But the fact is they do, they may not know anyone who was actually out and out LGBTQ person.

Yet, but almost everyone knows someone who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ plus community or someone who was gender nonbinary or gender nonconforming, gender fluid, that kind of thing. So the idea behind national coming out day is that by coming out We kind of make the personal political, and we’d like to show people that we’ll guess these, these things should matter to you.

And they do matter to you because people, you know and care about are members of the community. So, you know, someone who says they’ll go, I don’t really care about gay rights because it’s not relevant to me. Well, you know what, when people come out, it turns out that, oh, my youngest child is LGBTQ. My uncle is LGBTQ.

My second cousin is as transgender or non-binary. Right. So when we show people that, you know, when we come out, we show people that we exist that we’re not ashamed of ourselves. They’re proud of who we are. And then that lets them know that. Oh, okay. So I do know people, this does touch me. This does affect.

Yeah, that’s kind of the takeaway. Yeah. Well, it’s, it’s interesting too, because we live in a very heteronormative society where heterosexuality and like being cisgender kind of seen as the norm, right? Like that’s what normal is. And I’m using quotation marks

around the word normal. You know, if you are heterosexual or straight, as some people say. You don’t really have to, it’s like coming out, it’s not a process that you have to go through. It’s sort of always assumed. And so like, how would you explain the coming out process to those folks who may not be familiar with it?

So I think there’s a couple of stages to it. So the, the first part of coming out is a very, as a person. Stage a personal level. So we come out to ourselves first and by that, I mean that we come to accept and identify with our sexual orientation and or gender identity. Right. So it’s a, it’s a personal.

All right. So for example, growing up, I was very conflicted about being gay. I kept thinking and hoping and praying that it would just go away. It was a phase I’d grow out of, you know, and of course it never did because it’s who I am. It’s who I always was. So I had to first come to terms and make peace with that myself.

I kind of had to come out to myself, right. Like, oh, okay. I am a gay man. And then once I had taken that personal, you know, internal staff, that’s coming out to myself, then I began and I was able to them come out to first a friend, and then later to my family. And then, you know, on an audit that kind of ever widening circle.

Okay. And so how do you think someone makes the decision to come out? Like what’s the what’s that process like for a lot of folks, I think for most people it’s people do a lot of research and study and like they make real efforts to educate themselves, to learn what’s going on with themselves.

And, you know, I think there’s a tons of introspection. Oftentimes there’s prayer. I think there’s some. Dropping hints, testing the waters you know, getting a feel for, is it safe for me to come out? What will like my financial support, if that’s coming from my parents look like, what will my housing look like?

If I come out and there’s a negative reaction of if it goes poorly. So I think that it’s just a lot of, like I said, introspection and, and planning and I think. Just yeah. Testing the water to see if it’s safe. And also, I feel like, you know, it’s kind of seeing where you are internally. Like have, am I comfortable enough with us, myself to share it with another person?

So I think all that goes into. Yeah. I remember when I was in high school, a friend of mine that was in like my core friend group who I’d known since elementary school. You know, she came out to me and a few of our other friends just one night in the basement of my parent’s house. It was before she had come out to, you know, her family or anything like that.

And it was such a privilege to be a part of. That process for her because she did feel safe enough to tell us. And we had, we didn’t know, but we suspected, and we were just like, you know, great. Like, we love you. Let’s just, yeah. We’ll support you in whatever you do. And it’s, it’s, it’s an honor to, it was an honor to be in that position for sure.

That’s a huge sign of trust when someone feels safe enough and respected enough to share something. Fundamental about themselves with you. And what you said is really such a key takeaway is when someone comes out to you, you know, do take it as a sign of trust and respect, but also do ask, well, what can I do to support.

Like, you know, thank you for trusting me with this. How can, you know, can I help in any way? How can I best support you and also being mindful that you may be the only person that this person has told? So as much as you’re excited, like, oh, I have a new gay friend or a nutrients brat, you can’t really go blabbing about, around to everyone.

Without first checking in with the person who came out to you to say like, you know, how,…

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