The Power of Being Out – National Coming Out Day 2018

Today is the 30th anniversary of National Coming Out Day. First observed in 1988, National Coming Out day encourages those who identify as LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual) to come out to their friends, family, and communities. As more people come out, society is more likely to advocate for their rights and protections under the law.

The coming out process is different for everyone—take Alex and Brett for example. This iMentor Chicago pair was matched in Fall of 2016 at North-grand High School, and immediately felt a connection with each other. They never felt the need to formally state “I identify as a gay man” to each other, they simply shared stories about their lives and experiences, the way any two people getting to know each other would. Brett talked about his fiancé using he/him/his pronouns, and Alex shared typical high school challenges and experiences.

Neither Alex nor Brett built their relationship around their shared sexual orientation, but Alex was immediately comfortable when he learned that his mentor was also gay.

“I knew that he wouldn’t judge me, I knew that he’d be super understanding, and I knew that it was something else that he could help me with. If I ever struggled with something, I knew that he could truly relate to me on that level.”

Brett agrees, sharing that they both see a lot of themselves in each other. In addition to discussing college and careers—Brett has connected Alex with his network of theater professionals so Alex can learn more about theater as a career path—they’ve talked about their families, internal struggles, and acceptance. Brett has the gift of hindsight, and has shared his experiences being “out” in high school and college to help Alex navigate similar experiences today.

Brett’s empathy has had a powerful impact on Alex, “I see Brett, and he’s just doing so amazing in life! He’s so successful, I’m super proud of him, of who he is, and it’s great to see because I know I can do that too.”

Alex currently is a freshman at the University of Illinois. Alex and Brett Facetime about twice a month, and Brett is planning to visit him soon so they can discuss the steps needed for Alex to declare his major — theater!