responsible for the continued oppression of others when they engage in oppressive acts or
One core purpose of child welfare law is to encourage child safety.
118 That purpose relates
directly to a child’s public identification as LGBTQ—the decision to come out.
119 While not
coming out and remaining closeted perpetuates heterosexism,
120 the decision to come out also
brings a certain amount of risk.
121 This is a decision that each LGBTQ person must make in light
of individual circumstances.
122 For LGBTQ youth in state care, those risks must be understood
in light of the other safety risks in the child’s life.
123 Coming out may make the child safer or it
may make the child less safe. This personal judgment, which is the child’s alone to make,
be informed by the child’s internal strengths and weaknesses and the external threats and
protective capacities surrounding the child.
125 In turn, those strengths, weaknesses, threats, and
protective capacities are informed by other unique attributes of a child. In some circumstances,
for example, a child’s race or ethnicity might make it easier to be out and safe. In other
circumstances, the opposite is true. The decision to come out must be made by the child, and the
child alone, and differing children may make different decisions about coming out—and to
whom—in seemingly identical situations.
Safety for LGBTQ children and youth also needs to be addressed in the decision to
remove a child from home.
126 In assessing the home safety of an LGBTQ child, the child welfare
system must intentionally address the role that the child’s LGBTQ identity plays in making the
117 Hirschfeld, supra note 2, at 640.
118 Theresa Roe Lund & Jennifer Renne, Child Safety: What Judges and Lawyers Need to Know, in CHILD WELFARE
LAW AND PRACTICE: REPRESENTING CHILDREN, PARENTS, AND STATE AGENCIES IN ABUSE, NEGLECT, AND
DEPENDENCY CASES 291–92 (Donald N. Duquette & Ann M. Haralambie eds., 2d ed. 2010).
119 GETTING DOWN TO BASICS, supra note 1, at 12 (discussing safety risks in coming out). For a broad discussion of
coming out, see generally I T GETS BETTER: COMING OUT, OVERCOMING BULLYING, AND CREATING A LIFE WORTH
LIVING (Dan Savage & Terry Miller eds., 2012) (personal narratives of LGBTQ individuals who were bullied as
120 MICHELANGELO SIGNORILE, QUEER IN AMERICA: SEX, MEDIA, AND THE CLOSETS OF POWER xiii (1993) (“There
exists in America what appears to be a brilliantly orchestrated, massive conspiracy to keep all homosexuals locked
in the closet. This conspiracy forces many of us to live in shame and tremble in fear.”); KENJI YOSHINO, COVERING:
THE HIDDEN ASSAULT ON OUR CIVIL RIGHTS 50-73 (2006) (discussing the harms of remaining hidden or “in the
closet”). See also CAIN, supra note 82, at 285 (“We couldn’t complain about public discrimination against gays and
lesbians and at the same time ask to keep our sexual identities private.”).
121 See, e.g., Amy C. Orecchia, Working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Youth: Role
and Function of the Community Counselor, GRADUATE J. COUNSELING PSYCH., Spring 2008, at 66, 68–69, 71–73
(discussing various risks of coming out).
122 Id. at 71. See also YOSHINO, supra note 120, at 186 (“In my adolescence, this False Self protected the True Self
until its survival was assured.”) (emphasis added).
123 See, e.g., Lund & Renne, supra note 118. See also GETTING DOWN TO BASICS, supra note 1, at 11–12 (discussing
safety risks in coming out).
124 See, e.g., Orecchia, supra note 121, at 71 (stating that coming out is a personal decision).
125 See, e.g., Lund & Renne, supra note 118 (discussing considerations of safety in child welfare practice).
126 See, e.g., Susan Badeau, A Child’s Journey Through the Child Welfare System, in CHILD WELFARE LAW AND
PRACTICE: REPRESENTING CHILDREN, PARENTS, AND STATE AGENCIES IN ABUSE, NEGLECT, AND DEPENDENCY
CASES 341, 350–51 (Donald N. Duquette & Ann M. Haralambie eds., 2d ed. 2010) (discussing factors in decision
remove a child from home).