Coming out is never easy.
However, for individuals who have never loved or been close to a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) community, knowing how to respond to someone's coming out can also be challenging.
For this reason, queer teen Michael Waters began making "Coming Out Cards" -- free eCards that can be sent to a newly out member of the LGBT community as a small gesture of support and compassion. The cards are often tongue-in-cheek, adding a lighthearted air to what can be one of the most difficult times of a queer person's life.
"Coming out is often isolating, and continuing a dialogue with someone who has recently come out can make them feel much more comfortable and confident," Hansen told The Huffington Post. "It can make such a huge difference to remind them that you're listening, that you understand and that you're there for them. I hope these eCards will do exactly that."
The Huffington Post chatted further with Hansen this week about the "Coming Out Cards" and the impact he hopes they achieve. Check out the interview, as well as the cards themselves, below.
Why did you decide to create these "Coming Out Cards"?
Michael Waters: For a while now, I've noticed that there are greeting cards for almost every occasion, yet very few geared specifically towards coming out. And so, about a month ago, I decided to change that. Because I'm not much of a designer, a big part of the eCards for me has always been the message -- I wanted the cards to feel fun and positive and conversational all at once, so that they'd read like a friend's dorky text.
Why do you think this resource is so important for the queer community?
The eCards certainly won't change everything -- one of the many pressing issues facing the queer community is acceptance, and it's brave LGBTQIA+ people across the world who are fighting to make acceptance the norm. But my hope is that these cards will help in that "after coming out" stage, both by putting a smile on a queer person's face and by letting them breathe deeply because they know they truly are supported.
In your opinion, why are affirmations of support crucial to the healthy lives of queer people?
Though not every queer person will need an affirmation of support, I do think that -- especially in the beginning stages of the process -- many people are still deeply uncertain about how their sexuality or gender will affect their relationships, and little affirmations of support can help remind them that it's going to be okay. Coming out is often isolating, and continuing a dialogue with someone who has recently come out can make them feel much more comfortable and confident. You honestly don't know what's going through their mind -- they might still be insecure about their sexuality or gender, for example, or they might have had bad coming out experiences in the past and are worried that this one will also turn sour. It can make such a huge difference to remind them that you're listening, that you understand and that you're there for them. I hope these eCards will do exactly that.
What do you hope to see from this project in the future?
I'd really love for the cards to reach the right people -- by which I mean queer people who might find them funny, yeah, but also others who are supportive of the LGBTQIA+ community but who aren't quite sure how to express it. I hope these cards will bridge the gap for anyone who is struggling to convey their admiration for a loved one who has recently come out.
Want to see more "Coming Out Cards"? Head here.