In my mind, Pride celebrations should be in April.
Because of my days working in higher education -- April was the month that I spoke with the most LGBTQ2S+ students about being LGBTQ2S+. As the academic year closed out, my schedule filled with young people who were anxious about leaving the safety of their university bubble, nervous about going into new work environments, and in some cases, afraid to go home.
They knew who they were and didn't know how to tell their hometown friends, siblings, or parents. As such, I was the stand-in, the coming-out trial run. My reaction to their disclosure would inform how they would proceed with subsequent conversations.
Because I was an adult with some degree of authority while being relatively low stakes, if sharing with me went well, their confidence was built up, and if it went badly, they never had to see me again.
Recognizing the significance of my role, I consciously learned appropriate terminology. FYI: none of us are born with such in-depth communication skills -- self-education is a requirement.
Pairing my learning with my counselling background and inherent empathic nature, I did my best to create a safe space. The key to this is understanding when to speak and when to supportively remain silent.
Over time, word got out that I was capable of respectfully discussing queerness, and more students started booking end of term appointments to ask questions like:
- What if my co-workers find out that I'm gay?
- Should I invite my partner to visit me at home this summer?
- What will I do if my parents reject me?
No two conversations were the same. For some, I just listened while others sought my opinion. And for a few, I role-played as a mother, sister, or friend to help them map out phrases and boundaries. Deep waves of emotion flowed through within the four walls of my office; there were a lot of heartaches and breakthroughs. These were real conversations with real consequences attached.
From the shy and soft-spoken to the fierce in faux fur (and every personality and presentation in between), I loved working with each one of my LGBTQ2S+ students. Moreover, I am honoured that they trusted me to be a part of their story. They are each etched on my heart, and I hope they are all *out* living their best lives.
Ps. To learn how to support the LGBTQ2S+ community, attend an event offered by We Create Space or engage them to provide topic-specific education at your workplace.