JOPLIN, MO – As Pride Month comes to an end, an area resource makes its return to Joplin. We’re talking about JOMOEQ.
Yes, the group is meant to act as a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth, young adults, and allies.
The process of coming out to people is one of the hardest things LGBTQ+ people have to do in their lives.
So it makes resources like this so important, to make sure everyone, no matter their identity, know they’re not alone.
“Crippling anxiety for days ahead of time, thinking ‘It’s coming, I know I need to do this. It’s going to make me feel better in the end I’m sure.'” Says Loni Smith, JOMO Pride.
“And the moment before I told her it was one of those, you know you take a deep breath and you just do it.” Says Smith.
How do you tell someone something that could change their opinion of you forever?
People of all ages make the brave choice to “come out” to the world every day.
“My daughter’s 13, she’s in middle school and she’s come home and told me that there’s kids that are out at her school that are, 12, 13, 14 years old.” Says Smith.
While some are lucky enough to have a supportive response, sometimes it’s impossible to escape other obstacles.
“I didn’t have to physically come out and tell my parents, they basically knew, my mom obviously being more receptive than my father at the time.” Says Ron Burch, JOMO Pride Co-Chair.
“I didn’t come out as identifying as LGBTQ until I was 26 years-old.” Says Tim Shepard, US Senate Candidate.
“Unfortunately the organization that I was a part of, the institution disagreed with my interpretation of what God is love means and they fired me.” Says Shepard.
Other times people are forced to come out before they’re ready.
“I told my mom, I asked her not to say anything to anybody, she told everybody… And then my phone was blowing up from all of her friends, the rest of my family, my siblings calling me saying ‘What’s going on, mom’s telling us you’re a lesbian.'” Says Smith.
Throughout this turmoil, it leaves an entire community at risk.
“The leading cause of death for ages 10 to 25 is suicide and LGBTQ individuals have a much higher rate than heterosexual individuals.” Says Natalie & Sadie Murray, JOMOEQ.
“My best friend from 3rd grade… He committed suicide, because of a lot of internalized messaging he was receiving and bullying.” Says Shepard.
However, the world is changing.
Organizations like JOMOEQ are gathering, helping people explore their gender, their sexuality, and who they are as a person.
“This is going to help prevent that from happening, to give each other hope and family.” Says Natalie & Sadie Murray.
And not rushing the experience, making sure everyone is in a safe place before coming out.
“You should do things at your own pace… You’re not entitled to be true to anyone else aside from yourself.” Says Burch.
“Nobody should have any control over, that is your story to tell, and you wait until your ready.” Says Smith.
We have a link below to JOMOEW’s Facebook page for anyone interested in going to a meeting.
Every person we’ve talked to during this wants to make sure no one feels forced to coming out.
The most important thing is making sure you’re safe and have a support system in place no matter what happens.