An act of courage: National Coming Out Day underscores what is at risk

"We survived, I survived my own bullying, I survived my own coming out, so can you," said Joe Kort.

Kort is a psychotherapist in Royal Oak who has counseled people of all ages who are struggling with sexual identity - much like he did as a child.

"I was spit on, humiliated, bullied," said Kort, from the Center for Relationship and Sexual Health.

It's a situation too many LGBT people find themselves experiencing - and the results, say Dr. Kort, can be deadly.

"We know that families are the number one reason whether LGBT people live or die, whether they attempt suicide or not, number one." he said. "The research is really clear, so families are the key role right now."

Kort says 30 percent of LGBT teens attempt suicide and 40 percent of trans, which is why it's so important that parents, friends and family, get educated - and support them.

"We need to take this seriously - this is really life or death for these kids," Kort said.

On this National Coming Out Day - it's not just a day for the LGBT community to celebrate, but for parents, friends and relatives to truly understand what's at risk for people who come out as gay lesbian bisexual or transgender.

"We can still be fired from our places of work here in Michigan," said Dave Garcia. "We can still be denied public accommodation and housing - we still see young people every week here at affirmations that are getting kicked out of their homes."

Garcia is the executive director of Affirmations in Ferndale. They provide so many support services for the community - the message on this day - for those considering coming out, is to make sure you are safe, not at risk of physical harm, homelessness - or losing your job.

"If they are safe, they've got to come out because coming out changes hearts and minds," Garcia said. "And that's probably the most important thing that we can do - every time someone comes out - it's a political act - but it's an act of courage.

"While you may lose some friends - you gain many more."

And there are many support services available - from Affirmations to therapists like Joe Kort -  and online resources as well.

Resources online: 


Dr. Joe Kort and Associates:

The Family Acceptance Project: