The life cycle of a modern LGBT citizen is simple.
We learn we are LGBT. From there, we slowly — or abruptly — come out to our friends, family and anyone who will lend an ear. We then go through our party phase where we may or may not experiment with drugs and alcohol. It is during this phase that we express ourselves the most as LGBT. We wear rainbow paraphernalia, we become staunch advocates and we even get involved politically. Then, things progress slowly. We learn our entire being doesn't have to relate to being LGBT. We settle down and show the world that we're just like everyone else, eventually retiring — somewhere tropical preferably.
But for so many LGBTs, the second step is the hardest because is it also the most dangerous.
Now, I have been fortunate enough that my parents have been resoundingly accepting of me and all of the facets of my homosexual identity. I'm among a privileged class of LGBTs who have dealt with little to no hiccups, hurdles or harm when it came to coming out. Others are not so lucky.
The Human Rights Campaign's youth survey reports that out of 10,000 LGBTs surveyed — from the ages of 13 to 17 — 42 percent live in a community that is not accepting of LGBT people, and 26 percent said their biggest issues relate to not being accepted at home, being bullied and even being afraid to be open about their sexuality.
That's roughly 4,200 people who live in fear every day. Imagine if you weren't safe at home. Imagine if every day you feared being shoved, kicked or hit, not just by your peers at school, but by your family and friends as well. Now imagine being told that despite all of that, you have a duty to your community to come out.
The rhetoric young LGBTs are bombarded nowadays with the question of, "When are you going to come out?" For so many LGBTs, the answer is met with fear, trepidation and anxiety. We are forcing LGBTs out of the closet and for so many that's a risk they just can't afford. While staying in the closet can be emotionally painful, it's not worth physical pain.
The LGBT community needs to recognize that there is privilege associated with coming out. The sad fact of the matter is that coming out is risky, dangerous and, for some, deadly. Instead of demanding openness from our community members, we need to recognize that, for some, such openness is an impossibility, at least for now. Our efforts need to focus, not on pulling people out of the closet, but on creating safe paths that will lead them along the LGBT life cycle.
We, as a community, can take solace in the fact that 77 percent of the LGBT youth surveyed also reported that they know things will get better. But that still leaves 33 percent in doubt.
Instead of bombarding our LGBT peers with the question of coming out, the rhetoric needs to change to say, "Is it safe for you to come out?"
Adam Rhodes is the Entertainment Editor at the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @byadamrhodes or email him at AdamR@CentralFloridaFuture.com.