In light of talk show host Ellen Degeneres’ revelation that she never thought she would ever come out, especially on a show, because she feared that people would no longer love her, people may wonder why coming out is such a challenge for so many. To be sure, Degeneres’ very public coming out story was an inspiration for many, but the aftermath was disastrous for the talk show queen.
Attitude reports that Degeneres faced a very public backlash for coming out, and she virtually had to rebuild her career following the cancellation of her show. She said in spite of what happened, she learned so much as a result of the coming out aftermath.
“As soon as I think I know something, I realize that I got so much more to learn,” she said as part of her Oprah’s Master Class video. “It’s hard to hold on to everything that I’ve learned that I think is important, but I think the most important thing is compassion.”
Degeneres is not the only one. There are countless adults and youth who go through the coming out process daily, and yet, they are not exactly welcomed with open arms. According to a story that ran in Rolling Stone in September, 2014, youth who identify as LGBT comprise just 5 percent of the overall youth population, but 40 percent of the homeless youth population. The average coming out age has dropped to 16, when kids are still very much financially dependent on their parents for their survival.
That has led to many youth engaging in dangerous behaviors, like engaging in survival sex, simply to survive. Some have considered prostitution, where payment is more shelter than cash, and some youth have even struggled with coming out after they came out. There are several cases of youth being kicked out or cut off after their coming out. In an op-ed, writer Noah Brown said on AlterNet that he grew up in a home in which religious values were strictly instilled. He said that coming out was simply not an option for him, and he spent a great deal of his formative years censoring himself in order to survive.
“I’d grown up in a very spiritual family, and learned from an early age that it was frowned upon to be queer,” he said. “Overhearing my family say negative comments about other LGBT people made me censor myself in their presence, lest they discover that I was too.”
Coming out could matter even more in Russia, as the Russian parliament prepares to pass a bill that would criminalize coming out. Russia has had its fair share of controversy as far as coming out and homosexuality itself goes — the Sochi Olympics was plagued by protesters and the occasional humorous ad that alluded to Russia’s stance on homosexuality and coming out.
According to Newsweek, the Levada Center, Russia’s independent pollster, discovered in a recent poll that the fall of Communism has appeared to spark a desire to isolate individuals who identify as being somewhere along the LGBT spectrum. Thirty-seven percent of those polled said that LGBT individuals should be “isolated from society,” which was a higher percentage than those who believed the same about drug addicts, alcoholics, and prostitutes. Twenty-one percent of those polled said they would like to “liquidate” LGBT people.
Given the extreme views regarding how some sectors of society feel about people who are coming out about their LGBT status, coming out should matter especially now, more than ever. Those who, like Degeneres, believed that people would stop loving them or might altogether turn on them are being incredibly brave in facing the challenge of coming out head-on. Coming out is a definite process that requires patience and courage from all concerned, including the families of those individuals who identify as LGBT.