It’s National Coming Out Day, so why is it still so difficult to come out as LGBT?

National Coming Out Day
National Coming Out Day

Coming out has never been easy yet with more openly LGBT people in Britain than ever before campaigners are looking for more understanding on what it takes to come out.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) recently found the number of people who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual was approximately 1,026,000 in 2016 – up 11.4 per cent on the previous year.

This is the largest increase since ONS records began.

But despite there being more openly gay, lesbian and bisexual people in Britain than ever before, hate crime still affects a vast number of the LGBT community.

For example, LGBT charity Stonewall found that one in five LGBT people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the last 12 months.

As well as two in five trans people have also experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the last 12 months.

Notably Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people, disabled people, people who belong to a non-Christian faith and trans people are also disproportionately affected by anti-LGBT hate crime and incidents.

And although it’s been 50 years since Britain partially decriminalised homosexuality, living publicly as LGBT means battling everyday homophobia and makes coming out even harder.

More education for everyone

Zee Timmins, 18, is genderqueer and came out at 14.

He now says a lack of education, in particular with gender identity, makes it harder for young people to come out.

He says, “I think especially for young trans people and non binary young people there is a lack of understanding on their gender identity.

“A lot of young people find it difficult to come out because they know their parents won’t understand straight away. There isn’t a way for parents to get educated quite quickly, it takes them quite a long time to understand and accept.”

He adds, “If you’ve known someone for 14 years of your life and they thought you were one thing but you are actually something else it can be quite difficult for them to accept, at least at the initial part.”

“There needs to be more education for everyone,” he says. “Especially trans and non binary identities.”

LGBT people don’t just come out once

Although understanding of LGBT communities is generally improving, Matt Horwood Senior Communications Officer, Stonewall, explains how many LGBT people can never truly be themselves.

“Coming out’ is something that lesbian, gay, bi and trans people don’t just do once, but have to continuously do in their everyday lives.

“Whether it’s while booking a holiday with your partner, being asked about your weekend plans by new colleagues, a doctor’s appointment or in fact any time anyone asks about your relationship or identity.”

He adds, “Sometimes LGBT people choose to avoid these questions, or fabricate the truth, essentially going ‘back into the closet’. This is based on the fear of what might happen if they out themselves as lesbian, gay, bi or trans.

“Unfortunately we still live in a world where LGBT people still find it impossible to live as their authentic selves in all aspects of their lives,” Matt says.

“Some of us don’t come out to anyone, at all, and never will.”

Gay relationships, for example, are a criminal offence in 72 countries – being LGBT in Saudi Arabia, for example, is even punishable by death.

“National Coming Out Day should serve as a reminder of this reality, and provide a call to action for all people everywhere to be visible in their support of LGBT equality, and help us change that for good.”