Gay Rights: Despite Progress on Marriage, the Road to Coming Out Is a Long One


As the battle for marriage equality has headed in a positive direction in recent months, many Americans have come under the illusion that discrimination against the LGBT community will also come to an end soon. But one only needs to see materials like this video, created by Faith2Action and advocating an absolute rejection of homosexuality, to know this isn't the case. The country may be moving rapidly toward same-sex marriage rights, but what is making coming out for the LGBT community, especially its youth, so difficult? 

Steven Petrow, the author of several popular books about the LGBT community, points out in a blog on the New York Times that “coming out is a process that begins internally before the door starts to open to others. The more confident you are about your identity, the easier the coming will be.” If coming out were as easy as how it sounds in Petrow's post, then the tragedies of LGBT youth committing suicide because of the rejection of their sexuality should have already disappeared. 

In an article on the Huffington Post, Carl Siciliano, the executive director of the Ali Forney Center, talked about why coming out is still a challenge for LGBT youth. According to Siciliano, family rejection is one central factor that makes it difficult, especially during teenage years. Teenagers that still rely heavily on their family and haven’t acquired the ability to sustain themselves in society. According to research, over 30% of all reported teen suicides are related to LGBT youth, and 50% or more LGBT youth are rejected by their family due to their sexual orientation. These problems also lead to the fact that about 40% of homeless youth are LGBT.

In addition to familial rejection, anti-LGBT messages advocated by religious groups help complicate the coming-out process. In her recent article in Rolling Stone, Sabrina Rubin Erdely tells the stories of two LGBT youths’ tragic fate in Minnesota, where an anti-LGBT climate is created by evangelical Christians. The article reflects how the hostile attitude toward LGBT community that religious conservatives promote in places like Minnesota can contribute to the ultimate tragedy of young people taking their own lives. A study shows that a higher rate of LGBT youth suicide occurs in politically and religiously conservative areas. While this result might not be surprising, it still signals a hostile reality that the LGBT community is encountering while it tries to gain acceptance. 

While the LGBT community is aware of the challenges that exist during the coming-out process, the effect of community organizations and online platforms that support LGBT youth still seems to be limited. When the world is cheering for the United States' new momentum in legalizing same-sex marriage, the challenges facing the LGBT community during coming out are somehow ignored. This isn’t a battle that can easily won by the LGBT community’s own effort, but it requires a more universally established acceptance to accomplish the mission.