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Nikki Blog National Coming out Day

Cel­e­brat­ing Nation­al Com­ing Out Day

In hon­or of LGBTQ+ His­to­ry Month and Nation­al Com­ing Out Day, Nik­ki LaVal­ley (She/​Her) shares some of her insight on her per­son­al sto­ry and how it inter­twines her per­son­al mis­sion to Ken­neth Young Cen­ter pro­gram­ming. Nik­ki, who has been with Ken­neth Young Cen­ter since March of 2023, just cel­e­brat­ed her Team­mate of the Year win as Com­mu­ni­ty Collaboration’s Team Lead. She over­sees the many pro­grams and week­ly groups at the LGBTQ+ Cen­ter. This cru­cial pro­gram­ing includes youth and young adult nights for LGBTQ+ com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers, Rain­bow Room Youth Advo­cates for Change (RR YAC) for LGBTQ+ stu­dents and allies, to com­mu­ni­ty events and out­reach. She sees her role as Team Lead in her own words, It is my dream job to be able to ded­i­cate 40-hours a week to queer kids and to the expe­ri­ence of queer folks.

Terms to Know Before Reading

Cis or Cis­gen­der – (pro­nounced sis-gen­der): A term used to refer to an indi­vid­ual whose gen­der iden­ti­ty aligns with the sex assigned to them at birth. The pre­fix cis- comes from the Latin word for on the same side as.” Peo­ple who are both cis­gen­der and het­ero­sex­u­al are some­times referred to as cishet (pro­nounced sis-het”) indi­vid­u­als. The term cis­gen­der is not a slur. Peo­ple who are not trans should avoid call­ing them­selves nor­mal” and instead refer to them­selves as cis­gen­der or cis. 

Trans or Trans­gen­der – Often short­ened to trans, from the Latin pre­fix for on a dif­fer­ent side as.” A term describ­ing a person’s gen­der iden­ti­ty that does not nec­es­sar­i­ly match their assigned sex at birth. Trans­gen­der peo­ple may or may not decide to alter their bod­ies hor­mon­al­ly and/​or sur­gi­cal­ly to match their gen­der iden­ti­ty. This word is also used as an umbrel­la term to describe groups of peo­ple who tran­scend con­ven­tion­al expec­ta­tions of gen­der iden­ti­ty or expres­sion – such groups include, but are not lim­it­ed to, peo­ple who iden­ti­fy as trans­sex­u­al, gen­derqueer, gen­der vari­ant, gen­der diverse, and androg­y­nous. Com­mon acronyms and terms include female to male (or FTM), male to female (or MTF), assigned male at birth (or AMAB), assigned female at birth (or AFAB), non­bi­na­ry, and gen­der-expan­sive. Trans” is often con­sid­ered more inclu­sive than trans­gen­der because it includes trans­gen­der, trans­sex­u­al, trans­masc, trans­fem, and those who sim­ply use the word trans.

Queer – A term used by some LGBTQ+ peo­ple to describe them­selves and/​or their com­mu­ni­ty. Reclaimed from its ear­li­er neg­a­tive use – and val­ued by some for its defi­ance – the term is also con­sid­ered by some to be inclu­sive of the entire com­mu­ni­ty and by oth­ers who find it to be an appro­pri­ate term to describe their more flu­id iden­ti­ties. Tra­di­tion­al­ly a neg­a­tive or pejo­ra­tive term for peo­ple who are LGBTQ+, some peo­ple with­in the com­mu­ni­ty dis­like the term. Due to its vary­ing mean­ings, use this word only when self-iden­ti­fy­ing or quot­ing an indi­vid­ual who self-iden­ti­fies as queer.

Def­i­n­i­tions cour­tesy of the PFLAG Glos­sary. Please vis­it the PFLAG Glos­sary for more terms and definitions. 

Cel­e­brat­ing Nation­al Com­ing Out Day

Octo­ber 11th of this year was the 35th cel­e­bra­tion of Nation­al Com­ing Out Day. This cel­e­bra­tion rec­og­nizes and uplifts the brav­ery of queer peo­ple world­wide who come out pub­licly and pri­vate­ly. Nation­al Com­ing Out Day also illu­mi­nates that the fight for progress and equi­ty is not com­plete because many queer peo­ple still expe­ri­ence extreme stig­ma and risk when com­ing out. 

Com­ing Out is a Process

Nikki Blog National Coming out Day Instagram Post

I knew I had attrac­tion for both boys and girls by age 10, but I only found out oth­er peo­ple feel the same way by watch­ing MTV, which is hilar­i­ous to think back to now. I didn’t know how to label myself at all. It real­ly shows how con­fus­ing it is for peo­ple who don’t have access to def­i­n­i­tions and rep­re­sen­ta­tion.” Nik­ki sheds light on her own com­ing out sto­ry, explain­ing that it was a 15-year long process that doesn’t real­ly have an end. While she expe­ri­enced 12 years of ques­tion­ing, by the time she got to col­lege, Nik­ki had found some­one with whom she con­nect­ed on a deep lev­el. She describes this piv­otal rela­tion­ship, so, I found that this human was a best friend and so much more. We just real­ly saw a lot of the world in a very sim­i­lar light, and we had a lot of roman­tic feel­ings for each oth­er. It felt like, OK, now I’m real­ly explor­ing this.’ When we first start­ed dat­ing, he iden­ti­fied as a les­bian.” She con­tin­ues her com­ing out jour­ney, he did­n’t love that, but that’s where he stood on the spec­trum. Again, because we did­n’t have all the lan­guage that we need­ed.” Over the course of their rela­tion­ship, both Nik­ki and her part­ner gained insight into their shared and indi­vid­ual expe­ri­ences. She asked her­self ques­tions like, what does this mean for me?” while adjust­ing to her iden­ti­ty. She con­tin­ues, But while we were dat­ing, he was learn­ing more about him­self and in that iden­ti­ty devel­op­ment, came out as a trans man. And so, this prompt­ed me to learn more about myself. I expand­ed my view of gen­der and attrac­tion and learned I am attract­ed to peo­ple across a wider spec­trum than I once thought.”

Nik­ki touch­es on com­mon expe­ri­ences that many queer young peo­ple face, such as feel­ing unsure about your place in the world, sort­ing out the nuances to your iden­ti­ty, along with find­ing your com­mu­ni­ty. She explains that col­lege was a dif­fi­cult peri­od in her life which includ­ed bul­ly­ing, and this only increased after she and her part­ner came out. I went to a very con­ser­v­a­tive school.” She con­tin­ues, the fact we were also queer and out on cam­pus was real­ly hard. We both end­ed up trans­fer­ring to anoth­er school and it was also hard there. We came out, I lost a lot of friends, and I was judged in a pret­ty sig­nif­i­cant way.” Nik­ki worked hard to quick­ly grad­u­ate; and with a gap of 6 months before start­ing her new career, she decid­ed to fly to Europe and back­pack to expe­ri­ence and learn more about who she is.

New Begin­nings

Nikki Blog National Coming out Day Instagram Post1

After return­ing home to the States, Nik­ki start­ed her pre­vi­ous job in sales. Dur­ing this chap­ter of her life, she real­ized she was strug­gling and decid­ed to start ther­a­py. I’m hav­ing some sort of rela­tion­ship with dif­fer­ent types of peo­ple, and I don’t real­ly know what that looks like. So, I went to ther­a­py.” Nik­ki sought out a ther­a­pist with sim­i­lar queer lived expe­ri­ence. Nik­ki explains that her first expe­ri­ence in ther­a­py start­ed with ask­ing if her ther­a­pist could give her the answers to her iden­ti­ty. It end­ed up com­ing to a place where she did offer thoughts of say­ing hey, based on every­thing that you’re shar­ing with me, it sounds like you should explore what the word queer means.’ But that was actu­al­ly incred­i­bly use­ful to me, to rec­og­nize that there is a bit of ambi­gu­i­ty in that word and some beau­ty in that word that I can own for myself and have my own def­i­n­i­tion. I’ve main­tained that authen­ti­cal­ly since I was 23 when I first went to ther­a­py.” Start­ing her own explo­ration and jour­ney into ther­a­py gave Nik­ki the tools to come out more inti­mate­ly to friends and fam­i­ly. I was able to real­ly come out to my friends and fam­i­ly. Because before that, I was just kind of like, yes, I like every­one, I think. I don’t know.’” She empha­sizes the impor­tance of ther­a­py help­ing her find the lan­guage and safe­ty for self-exploration. 

As she re-tells her sto­ry, it ends on a poignant note, I didn’t come out to my mom until I was 25. It was amidst the pan­dem­ic, and I start­ed dat­ing my cur­rent part­ner who is a cis man. I shared that I was queer because I thought that if this rela­tion­ship that real­ly meant some­thing to me was going to take off, then my queer­ness would be erased, and it would­n’t be val­ued. And, if I negat­ed the val­ue of this rela­tion­ship just to be per­ceived as queer, I also wasn’t liv­ing authen­ti­cal­ly.” The final piece of advice Nik­ki shares is, while many peo­ple may have an orig­i­nal com­ing out sto­ry, the process of com­ing out is con­tin­u­al and life­long; many assume that their cowork­ers, fam­i­ly, and friends are straight until that moment. She also high­lights that it is impor­tant to remem­ber to stay open-mind­ed, com­fort­able, and flex­i­ble with learn­ing with a will­ing­ness to grow as iden­ti­ties shift and change through­out life. 

Con­nect­ing with LGBTQ+ Cen­ter Programming

Nikki Blog National Coming out Day Instagram Post2

The LGBTQ+ Center’s pro­gram­ming has a direct and pos­i­tive impact on com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers, queer and allies alike. This space pro­vides the chance for con­nec­tion, edu­ca­tion, insight, and sup­port. For those in sub­ur­ban Cook Coun­ty, Ken­neth Young Cen­ter pro­vides free bus trans­porta­tion to the LGBTQ+ Cen­ter. KYC also hosts many queer-inclu­sive, infor­ma­tion­al events on top­ics like sex edu­ca­tion, legal name change process, net­work­ing, career sup­ports, and much more!

To learn more about LGBTQ+ Cen­ter pro­gram­ming, bus ser­vice, and events, please call 8474965939 or email lgbtqcenter@​kennethyoung.​org. You can also check out our blog here!

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