How to Come Out at School (Guide 2021)
Coming out as gay, lesbian, pan or whatever at school is a big step - and unfortunately it's not always that easy (believe us, we've been there too). That's exactly why we want to help you with this guide when you come out at school.
Don't take this text as a fixed set of rules, but rather as an inspiration - in the end it's your decision if, when and how you come out in your school.
- Why is Coming Out at School Often so Difficult?
- Tips For Coming Out at School
- Being Outed Without Your Consent in School - What to Do
- Help, I am Being Bullied!
1. Why is Coming Out at School Often so Difficult?
As a non-heterosexual and/or non-cisgender (identifying with the gender assigned at birth) person, you go through many coming out experiences in different walks of life. For many of us, school days were and are particularly challenging. For your own coming out, it can be very helpful to understand the "context" in which you find yourself and why we often have such a hard time coming out in school.
In school there is often a strong heteronormativity. This means that it is assumed from the beginning that you are heterosexual - not only by other students, but also by many teachers. An environment that often overlooks queer people does not make it easier to come out.
- "Are you gay?", etc. still common swear words
"Are you gay or what?", "Fucking lesbian", etc. are terms that are still frequently used as insults among students. In a survey at the end of 2017 (Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency) it was found that shockingly only 6.2 percent had not heard any queer-hostile remarks in the last 12 months.
Especially for queer people whose coming out concerns their gender identity, cisnormativity is a big problem. Just like heteronormativity, cisnormativity means that it is assumed from the start that you are cis (identify with the gender assigned at birth) - again, not only by other students, but usually by teachers as well.
2. Tips For Coming Out at School
Let's move on to a nicer topic: tips on how to make your coming out at school a success 🙂 Of course, the list here is only a suggestion - you always have to think about which points fit best for you. If you need help, you will find a list of contact points later on.
- Finding queer groups (at school)
From our own experience, we can tell you that having a queer group for support is super valuable! Some schools already have queer initiatives that you can participate in. If there isn't anything like that, or if you're too unsure (yet) to join, check out local queer youth groups or online services.
- Find other queer students
If there is no queer group at your school or if you prefer 1:1 support, you can also ask other queer students from your school for advice. Of course, not every school has openly outed people - but it's definitely worth a try. Keep in mind, however, that these people are not an official point of contact and may refuse your request.
- Check the attitudes of other students
If you are afraid of the reactions of your classmates, you can ask around a bit. How do they feel about queer issues? Do they think it's good that celebrity XY has now come out? Of course, this is only a tendency; unfortunately, there is never a 100% guarantee of how the reactions will ultimately turn out.
- Clarify the school's guidelines
This is especially important for people who might be excluded due to their queerness. For example, if you are trans* and go to an all-girls or all-boys school, or if you are a lesbian and go to a religious, strictly conservative school, you should think about your options.
3. Being Outed Without Your Consent in School - What to Do
For many people it is a horror szenario: being outed forceful by someone else at school! Especially if you were not ready to tell everyone, this situation can bring a lot of suffering. What will happen now? Will my parents also find out? How can I get to grips with all this? Here we'll give you some advice on how to deal with extraneous outing at school.
- Just take a breath
Sounds trite, but it's important. Being outed without your consent can quickly bring about an escape or fight reaction in which you are totally overwhelmed. Take a moment and breathe deeply. This will help you to better assess the situation and not to make any rash decisions.
- Find a safe space
You probably want to get out of this situation completely. It is very helpful if you have or are looking for a safe space where you can just be yourself and talk to others about your problems, worries and fears. This could be your mom, a queer youth group, or even an online forum.
- Consider your next steps
Once you have calmed down and are in a safe environment, it's time to figure out what to do next. Do you want to be open and say to all your classmates "Yes, I am gay/lesbian/pan/etc. and that's fine"? Or do you need professional help from a guidance counselor? Or is it even a consideration to change the school? Of course, how exactly you proceed depends completely on your individual situation. If you are overwhelmed with everything and don't know how to proceed, you will find contact points at the end of this guide.
4. Help, I am Being Bullied!
Bullying based on your sexuality, romantic orientation or gender identity is an absolute no-go and you should not just let it happen. The LSVD (Lesbian and Gay Association in Germany) has published a brochure for students about bullying at school based on sexual identity.
Quoting from it, we would like to give you these three main tips:
- If you are being bullied yourself by one or more people, it might be better to get help inside or outside of school. You don't deserve to be bullied, no matter what the people who are bullying you say.
- Most of the time, those who are bullying you are outnumbered and you can't manage to stand up to them on your own. Therefore, find an adult at school that you trust and ask for help.
- Seek support from your friends or others in your class. Don't be embarrassed about being bullied. Bullying, unfortunately, happens a lot, you are not the only person who feels this way. A class where bullying happens is not a community. Everyone has to be afraid of being next. That's why you have to stick together and do something about it.
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OurComingOut.com is a project by us - the RainbowWarriors. We are a virtual youth movement by & for queer youth and young adults. As a strong team we work together to advocate LGBTQ+ & mental health issues.