Notable stars like Demi Lovato and Lili Reinhart have begun their LGBTQIA+ journeys by coming out on social media. This May, Lovato shared a vulnerable video on their Instagram page, identifying as non-binary for the first time publicly. The ‘Dancing With The Devil’ singer opened up to their followers about their failed engagement and how the experience made them better understand their sexuality.
Like these stars, LGBTQIA+ teens and young adults have also taken to social media as a catalyst to share their stories from all over the world. More specifically, via the app that changed our lives in countless ways, users began coming out on TikTok – best known for its overnight-viral sensations. Undeniably, social media has become pivotal to the way Gen Z begins its LGBTQIA+ journeys. Scrolling through the platform, you’ll find thousands of videos dubbed with the hashtag #comingout, where young creators share their conversations with parents, siblings, and friends—many of these videos garnering millions of views and thousands of comments. Users got creative, utilizing song lyrics and subtle cues to speak their truth without having to say the words out loud, as our hearts stood still with them waiting for that moment of realization and relief.
While so many of those displays brought tears to our eyes and drew hope for the future of LGBTQIA+ rights and equality, each video is unique in its own right. Across the platform, you’ll also find hundreds of videos that show a more somber conversation, one that doesn’t end in hugs and “we love you’s”, but rather in denial and heavy silences. Social media continues to act as a haven for many members of the LGBTQIA+ community in rural parts of the country and across the world, yet, it also emits an unfortunate byproduct of unrealistic expectations. Similar to that of the pressures around body image, coming out on social media can give way to an idea of what these conversations “should” look like when, in reality, there’s no blueprint.
Does the idea of virality on social media mask the gravity of the coming out process?
At STYLECASTER, we raised the question; Does the idea of virality on social media mask the gravity of these conversations and the coming out process? What was once referred to as a “journey” has morphed into what Dr. Bethany Cook, a clinical psychologist specializing in family therapy, calls “coming out, supernova-style”. We sat down with Dr. Cook to discuss just that, her own coming-out story, and the guidance she shares with her patients.
STYLECASTER: When a young member of the LGBTQIA+ community comes to you about beginning their coming out journey, where do you start?
Dr. Bethany Cook, LCP: “I always tell clients that you want to make sure that the timing is right, and that you’re doing this for you – not for them. What do you want out of this relationship moving forward? We have a game plan in place. Where can you go? Do you have friends to go stay with? Then we’ll role play if they choose. Because you get in the moment and you can’t always get those words out.”
SC: As a clinical psychologist, what are your thoughts on the social media trend where teens record and post their coming-out conversations?
BC: “There’s a lot of attention there to be garnered. You can put it on TikTok and go viral, and that feels really good. However, it’s there forever and there’s a lot of ramifications. If you are in a vulnerable place and your video goes viral, and then people take it in a way you hadn’t intended – there’s a lot of consequences to that.”
SC: In what ways do you think social media has changed the coming out process?
BC: “The coming out process is called coming out for a reason. There are some people that come out ‘supernova- style’, but for many, that’s very difficult. You wait so long to find one person you can tell and to see how it is received. And the benefit is that you can cope with that. With social media, you have no control over that. You need a solid support system if you’re going to do this on social media.”
SC: What do you see as some of the benefits that have come from LGBTQIA+ members beginning their journeys via social media?
BC: “It’s incredibly empowering to speak your truth. And when you own your truth and speak it, you become more real within yourself. Whether that person accepts you or not doesn’t have to change how you feel about it. If other people see your video, they become more vulnerable within themselves. Posting your video may help someone own their truth somewhere else.”
SC: What would you tell those members of the LGBTQIA+ community that may not know if they’re ready to come out yet?
BC: “If you don’t know if you’re ready to come out yet, go to your most trusted friend. That could be a parent, a sibling, a friend–whoever. Or go to an LGBTQIA+ group, and talk to someone who’s been through it before. Take it slow. You have to think of it like a spiderweb. If you pull one thread, all of the others are going to shift. It doesn’t mean they’re going to move a lot, or in a negative way, but they’ll move–and you should be ready for that.”
It truly is a journey. I didn’t come out until I was ready to not have a family.
SC: You’re currently in a same-sex marriage, and identify as bisexual. Can you tell us what your own coming-out journey was like?
BC: “I kissed a girl freshman year of college and I did not come out to my mother until I was 28 years old. It truly is a journey. I didn’t come out until I was ready to not have a family. I was ready for the worst to happen, to be disowned–and I really thought that could be a possibility.”
SC: Do you have any last thoughts or advice for young members of the LGBTQIA+ community?
BC: “Sometimes because of Pride Month there can be this build-up, this pressure, and you get caught up in that momentum. It doesn’t have to be this June, it doesn’t have to be next June. Don’t do anything on impulse. But if you do want to do it, then go ahead and post it—and be proud of that.”