We want to celebrate our military youth no matter how they identify. Youth, military or not, often go through a time in their development when they discover more about themselves and one aspect may be sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It is definitely a time for lots of questions. We can’t answer them all here but we can offer a few questions and starting points.
Some questions you may have....
Should I "come out"?
Often the perceived goal to be truly LGBTQ is to come out to others. You might think that if you are not “out” then you must really not be ____. But the bottom line is that it is a personal choice. It is not a mandate to make your identity official. There are so many people and situations, where you can officially come “out” at your discretion. Friends, siblings, father, mother, teacher, coach, doctor, co-worker/boss, and other gays or lesbians can help you through your coming out. Always know that coming out is a personal choice, which should be on your terms and no one else’s.
Who can I talk to?
This is an important question because you may or may not know someone’s views on sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It will be important to pick a person you can trust (see How to Talk to an Adult section). Here are a few questions you might think through as you make the decision about coming out:
- Is it safe to tell this person in this particular situation?
- Am I prepared for this person’s reaction – positive or negative?
- Should I tell them in person or in a letter/email?
- How will it change our relationship?
- How will it affect the people I love?
- When would be the best time to tell them?
- What if they already know, should I still say something?
Where can I get helpful information?
The news is filled with so much information that is hard to decipher what is true or not true, helpful or not helpful. Here are a few organizations and people who can help you with figuring all this out or at least point you in the right direction. The Center for Disease Control has a list of resources for LGBT youth and friends/supporters. The Boys and Girls Clubs of America partners with the DOD to develop military youth centers. They are committed to ensuring equity and inclusion for all young people. Suicide is a real concern for LGBTQ youth because it can feel lonely and isolated. The National Suicide prevention lifeline website offers some ways to take care of yourself. If you’re struggling, you can call or chat with the Lifeline. They are available 24/7 and confidential.
Dear Doc is a segment dedicated to answering questions that MKC users have about the unique challenges they face as part of a military family. If you have a question for DOC, use the Contact Us form and let us know what you would like DOC to answer for you. Like the question from Scared and Confused below.
Read more Dear DOC stories.
Living My Truth
Dear DOC I am a sixteen year old personally identifying as female using the pronouns of she/her. My dad is an officer in the Army and has shared how proud he is to have a son and hopes that I follow his footsteps by becoming an officer in the Army. How do I come out and tell him that I am transgender? I love my dad very much and I am afraid I will be a disappointment to him. – Scared and Confused
DEAR Scared and Confused,
There is not a right or wrong way to communicate your gender identity with others.. Everyone’s experience is different. Telling someone that you are close to can be the hardest part of coming out, so it’s important to feel prepared. You could try coming out to another trusted adult that you are comfortable with first. This will give you an opportunity to practice what you want to say, and give you another caring adult to reach out to if you run into challenges coming out to your father. The news may come as a complete shock to your father, or it may be expected. It’s important to help him understand that this is a part of you that no-one can change, and that by identifying as female, you are being true to yourself. You may be met with negative responses. Remind them that your gender is only one part of what makes you who you are, and that your love for your dad will never change. Your dad may not know how to respond to the news, and may take a while to process the information that you have shared. Be prepared to step back for a couple of days or maybe weeks. Give him time to process exactly what you have told him. When things get rough, remind yourself that being true to who you are is important for your own wellbeing. Remember that the coming out process is not a sprint but a marathon. – DOC
Being LGBTQ as a Military Youth
Military LGBTQ youth may have some unique challenges. For example, military families move frequently. Maybe you lived somewhere that is an LGBTQ-friendly place with a supportive school environment, and publicly open... What happens if you PCS and you leave this nurturing environment and friends and go to a less than LGBTQ-friendly place and need some help? This can be quite a change. The internet has a wealth of information and resources available to help you out, and some misinformation too so be careful to be sure you are using reputable sources! Phones and websites have also made staying in touch with the friends you have made all across the country much easier. And safe communication sites like the Military Kids Connect Message Board can provide you with a way to talk with other military kids that may be experiencing the same challenges.