Without hesitation, hairstylist Tiffany Brightman shared her coming out story while working at Temple Studio in downtown Durham on Tuesday.
"I hadn't come out officially to my family yet, so I called my mom and said 'I met somebody and we're about to move in together,'" Brightman said. "What's his name? And I said Maria, and that's how that conversation started."
Brightman called her experience back then "lucky enough," where it wasn't a big deal to those around her growing up. But looking back as an adult, she said it's still something that you wrestle with internally, no matter how open your friend group is or the area that you live.
"I am from an older generation of gay people where it wasn't something that you did or said when you were a teen, or you kind of kept it under wraps until you moved out of your parents' house," Brightman said. "Different is good, it's not something that you aren't trying to all look and act the same."
For LGBTQ youth, the act of coming out can be riddled with anxiety, especially for the most marginalized in the queer community, according to LGBTQ Center of Durham's Freddy Perkins.
"Culturally, what happens?" Perkins said. "So when we look at Black, and brown, and Latin American people, who come from a queer community, we think about what's that reception going be culturally? What has it historically looked like?"
Although National Coming Out Day is appreciated as a day where one can come out and live openly, Perkins said we're still having conversations where people feel a lot of strain or hesitancy around coming out.
The Trevor Project found LGBTQ youth are coming about their sexual orientation at younger ages, on average, at age 13. But LGBTQ youth who came out before age 13 had increased odds of suicide risk, according to the national survey.
"For too many young people, coming out can still mean family rejection, bullying in school, even subjection to the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy," the Trevor Project's Rob Todaro said. "So, it's not right or even safe to pressure someone to come out, but it's on all of us to create those safe, affirming environments where young people can feel safe in their daily lives to be themselves."
Licensed clinical mental health counselor and associate Cat Salemi said people who commit suicide "usually do it as a last resort because they do not see hope for themselves in the future." Nearly 1 in 5 transgender and nonbinary youth attempted suicide and LGBTQ youth of color reported higher rates than their white peers, according to the Trevor Project.
"So one of the primary things we can do to help lower that number is to be accepting, be affirming, and supportive," Salemi said.