Archive of ‘Communication’ category

National Coming Out Day

By: Savannah Stoute, LPC-Intern Supervised by Leslie Larson, LPC-S

By: Savannah Stoute, LPC-Intern
Supervised by Leslie Larson, LPC-S

Did you know that October 11th is a significant day in LGBT history in the United States? According to the Human Rights Campaign, Every year on October 11th, the United States celebrates the LGBT community with National Coming Out Day. If National Coming Out Day is new to you, you might ask yourself, “why October 11th?” It turns out that on October 11, 1987, about half a million people participated in the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. It was the second demonstration in our nation’s capital that resulted in the founding of a number of LGBT organizations, including the National Latino/a Gay and Lesbian Organization (LLEGO’). The momentum continued for four months after this amazing march as more than 100 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists from around the country gathered in Manassas, Va., about 25 miles outside Washington, D.C. Recognizing that the LGBT community often reacted defensively to anti-gay actions, they came up with the idea of a national day to celebrate coming out and chose the anniversary of that second march on Washington to mark it. The originators of the idea were Rob Eichberg and Jean O’Leary. From this idea the National Coming Out Day was born.

Risks and Benefits

National Coming Out Day may give LGBT individuals the confidence to come out to their loved ones, but it’s important to know that not everyone has a supportive experience. There are risks and benefits of coming out, therefore, it’s important to determine what is right for you when choosing to come out.

Some risks you might encounter include:

  • Homophobia
  • Friends may not be supportive
  • Parents may not be supportive
  • Homelessness
  • You might get asked a lot of uncomfortable questions
  • You might lose friends

Some benefits of coming out:

  • You won’t be afraid of people finding out
  • You will have a chance to live authentically
  • You can receive support from LGBT Organizations
  • You will have the opportunity to make LGBT friends
  • You can be a role model for other LGBT youth
  • You may have improved self esteem

Deciding when to come out

  • Be comfortable with who you are. When deciding to come out to your loved ones, it’s important to become comfortable with yourself before you begin to tell people. If you are confidant in yourself, you will be comfortable with the processing time it takes your loved one. You will feel more comfortable when answer questions and clarifying the process if necessary.
  • Take your time. Don’t feel forced or pressured to come out by others. If you feel like people know and they are just waiting for you to confirm, let them wait. This is your journey and your life. Don’t let someone else’s expectations dictate your coming out experience.
  • Find a safe person. This may be a friend, family member, or a counselor. Sometimes finding someone safe for the first time you say “I’m Gay” out loud makes all the difference for your confidence.
  • Choose a safe moment and place. Deciding to come out to your family at your cousins wedding may not be the best idea. If you decide to come out, pick a day, time, and place where you and the person you are coming out to will have time to process this new information.
  • Be patient. Allow your loved ones time to process this new information. Not everyone will be surprised or shocked, but there will be some people that didn’t see this coming. Give these individuals the time and space to come to terms with this information. Your family and friends might have some difficult questions for you. Help them understand where you are within the process and then allow them the chance to take their time. It might be hard for a dad to hear that his son is gay, then the next day get introduced to your boyfriend. Ask your family members how comfortable they are before you start adding on more information. Coming out as LGBT may be something you have been processing for years, so giving you family and friends’ time to process will be beneficial as well.

The process of coming out to your family and friends can be difficult. You may feel scared and uncertain about how your loved ones will react. Joining a LGBT support group will help you hear how others have dealt with the coming out period. Counseling can also be helpful during this time. If you find a counselor that is knowledgeable and sensitive about coming out as LGBT, you can process what it’s like during this time and have the support that you may be lacking.

NCOD logo designed by Keith Haring

NCOD logo designed by Keith Haring

Children and Their Feelings

I was at the rock climbing wall at our gym the other day when I heard a little boy say to his dad, “I don’t know if I can do it. I’m scared.”He was referring to the route he was hoping to climb. His dad, who seemed relatively supportive and encouraging toward his son replied, “You can do it. Big boys don’t get scared.”

Jennifer Alley, LPC

Jennifer Alley, LPC

Although perhaps said with good intentions, this statement made me sigh and feel concerned about another generation of boys and men (and even girls and women) being taught that it isn’t okay to experience perceived “weaker”emotions. And more importantly, what they can do when these inevitable feelings do creep up.

Part of the reason it is so difficult to respond well when our children/friends/partners are experiencing difficult emotions (besides all of the gender messages we are socialized to adhere to) is that in order to be empathetic, we have to actually touch that part in ourselves that knows what it is like to feel that feeling. And that is scary! And what is more scary is to imagine your child feeling that, and so the easiest thing to do is brush it under the rug, dismiss or minimize the feeling, shame the feeling, or try to make them feel better. Unfortunately, this generally leads to the other person feeling like they are not heard, that their feelings don’t matter, that they should be ashamed of those feelings and are bad for having them, or that they need to keep their feelings to themselves in the future. And it generally intensifies the feeling while causing isolation.

I’m certain the father at the gym did not want for his response to his son to have any of these outcomes. Likely, he was wanting to help socialize his son to stereotypical gender norms that he learned (without even realizing it necessarily), and he probably honestly didn’t know how to respond. I did keep my mouth shut at the gym, but here are a few thoughts about how I hope to handle these conversations with my children and what you might do when your kids are experiencing painful or difficult emotions.

1. Because we are modeling emotion regulation for our children, it can be really helpful to walk them through our process.

Example: “I sometimes get scared, too. I remember when I was scared (give age

appropriate example). This is how I handled it (give healthy, age appropriate ideas about how to manage that emotion).

2. Simply validate the feeling. Nothing feels better than having someone acknowledge our emotions.

Example: “It does look scary! I would be scared in that situation, too!”

3. Listen and give your child time to talk about what they are experiencing. Having our feelings validated and being given space to talk through them can greatly lessen the intensity of the negative emotion.

Example: “I hear that you are scared. What are you most afraid of? What can I do to support you?”

If you feel like you might benefit from a little lesson on empathy and what it looks like, check out this great animated video based on the work of Brené Brown.



How Much Technology is Too Much?

kid on phone

We live in a time where e-mails, texts, social media, games, the latest news and even movies are at our fingertips. With smartphones on the rise (about 58-65% of Americans own one), the average American spends 23 hours each week using some online communication. And, according to a recent study by Nielsen, the average American adult spends 10 hours per day with some type of electronic media.

Certainly, many of those hours may be chalked up to work and other important or necessary matters. But many of us are guilty of interacting more with our friends and family members on sites like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram than we do in person. And, while technology is supposed to make life easier, one could argue that being plugged in all of the time (ie. having constant access to work emails), can also be detrimental.

Our online presence is a great way to numb, to disconnect, to tune out real life problems and relational struggles. It also feels like a good way to connect, have down time, and a little bit of fun. And it certainly can be. Of course, it also can create a new set of problems. Problems like not feeling good enough, creating cyber relationships that are detrimental or hurtful to partnerships/marriages, feeling out of touch with reality, cyber bullying, comparing ourselves to others, overworking as we are always plugged in, sexting, and perhaps most importantly, being disconnected from the people who matter the most to us.

When I think of how this plays out in everyday life, I think of times where I have watched family members or partners eat an entire meal together at a restaurant without actually speaking to one another, captivated by their smartphone. I think of children who struggle to get their parent’s attention as they browse Facebook. I imagine husbands and wives lying in their dark room at night illuminated by the glow of a television or smartphone instead of snuggling up together at the end of a long day to reconnect. I think of young people and adults feeling depressed and isolated because their online persona or avatar is not meeting up to their counterparts’ online identities. And I think of more and more people being “connected” yet feeling desperately and utterly disconnected. And certainly, this could be and has been all of us at some point, I would imagine.

As parents, it is important to know that children and adolescents are at greater risk in their use of social media due to “their limited capacity for self-regulation and susceptibility to peer pressure,” according to Medical News Today. And, excessive internet use has been linked to loneliness, depression, and other emotional issues. Regardless of our age, it would be good to examine our online presence and how it is impacting our life offline. If you answer yes to any of the following statements below, limiting or changing your Internet habits might be beneficial.

  1. I have gone without eating, sleeping, or meeting other basic needs because of the Internet.
  2. I feel extremely bothered when I can’t connect or get on the internet.
  3. I frequently catch myself surfing when I’m not really interested.
  4. When I get online to do something briefly, I find myself engaged in sites and apps outside of my original intention.
  5. I spend less time than I should with family, friends, work, or schoolwork because of the time I spend online.
  6. I have tried unsuccessfully to spend less time on the Internet.
  7. I have gotten cues or feedback from loved ones that I am not present with them because of my online activity.
  8. I often find myself surfing the web in the middle of the night instead of sleeping.
  9. There is conflict in my relationships because of the time I spend or because of my activity online.
  10. If I ever have a spare minute, I immediately grab my device to go online.
  11. I frequently am comparing myself to others (even friends) online.

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