So you’ve figured out your sexuality/gender identity. Great! It’s a very important step to take in living out the rest of your life comfortably. But now comes a new dilemma… coming out.
Whether you come out at 16 or 40, it’s never easy. Are you ready to tell people about your LGBTQ identity, but nervous about doing it? Well, Psych2Go has a list for you. Here are 8 things you need to know before coming out.
It’s Okay to Feel Anxious
It’s perfectly normal to feel nerves or even anxiety when thinking about coming out. Anxiety, after all, stems from future-oriented thinking. What is your life going to be like after you come out? Will things be vastly different than they are now? Might they get worse? What are your friends and family going to think?
These thoughts and worries keep us living in fear of being our true selves. But don’t let your fear of the “what-ifs” stop you from feeling empowered and confident in who you really are!
If the thought of making the announcement itself is what scares you, just remember that coming out doesn’t have to be a grand event. Some people may feel empowered by coming-out parties and Facebook posts. But it can be as intimate as you need it to be, whether it’s having a talk with one person at a time, or finding a way to bring it up in friendly conversation. Everyone’s coming out experience is different – no coming out process is perfect.
You Don’t Have to Do It Alone
Coming out doesn’t have to be something you have to handle on your own, either. It’s perfectly okay to have a friend or loved one – someone you’ve already come out to – to help you come out in situations that may especially make you anxious. This can include telling parents, extended family, or even a group of friends.
Choose the Right Time
When coming out to close friends and family for the first time, it helps to have their undivided attention before bringing up something so important. It’s not the best idea to come out during major family events (weddings, barbeques, etc.) or while the person you’re talking to has their minds occupied with activities (watching TV or driving, etc.). It’s definitely not a great idea to bring home a brand new queer S/O to shock your parents with. Coming out can be an emotional time for every party involved, so it’s important to give the person you’re talking to the attention and private time to help them internalize what you’re telling them.
Don’t Put Yourself at Risk
There are situations in which coming out can mean jeopardizing your own safety. Remember, safety must always come first. If you fear that coming out to someone could harm you in any way – physically, or even socially (ostracizing or even getting fired from work), don’t do it.
Unfortunately, there are people that may not be accepting of your coming out. But that doesn’t mean you have to live the rest of your life in the closet. If being openly LGBTQ at home is not a safe option for you – or even if you feel ostracized or shamed where you live – it is important to look for support and comfort elsewhere. Search for any LGBTQ-friendly community programs or alliances near you, or speak to a counselor (online, over the phone, or in person) to discuss your possible options. The Trevor Project is a useful online counseling website dedicated to assisting LGBTQ people – you can reach their website HERE.
- Throw Away your Expectations
You must accept that people’s first reactions may not be the ones you may have wanted or expected. We hope that people will respond to our coming out with joy and hugs, but we’re talking about your identity here! This is a big part of your life that you’re opening them up to, and everyone reacts differently to news this big.
Some people might be completely shocked, while others may need to take time alone to digest the information. Others may have already seen some clues that you were LGBTQ and may tell you they had a feeling (Yes, there are people out there that you aren’t fooling one bit). Some people may treat the topic very casually as if it was just some cool thing about you they didn’t know. Whatever the response, try not to judge them and be patient with how they handle your news.
Don’t Be So Hard on your Parents
A big mistake that I made when I came out to my parents was being angry at them for not being more supportive of my sexual identity. My mother distrusted me and became very confrontational. My father chose to never speak about my romantic life again. I was hurt. This moment was about me accepting who I am, after all, right?
Though my relationship with my father never recovered, my mom and I became closer than ever. Years after I came out, she admitted to me that she was hurt because she thought that I had lied about myself to her for all those years before I came out. It took for me to open up to her about my confused feelings as a teenager to show her that I wasn’t lying. I just had no idea who I was yet!
Your parents, who… well, raised you, may already have a whole bunch of hopes and expectations for what your life was going to be like. Some parents know their children are queer before they themselves do. But if your parents were anything like mine, they had a different life for you planned out in their heads. You were going to marry a cis-gendered person of the opposite sex. You were going to have children naturally. You would never know the hatefulness and fear of homophobia or transphobia. While the world has a long way to go in the equality department, your parents need help to understand that you are who you’ve always been, and your life – for the most part – doesn’t have to change!
Be open with them. Explain your feelings to them. Don’t be upset if they react with sadness or disappointment. Sometimes we get caught up in thinking that it’s everyone else’s job to try to see things our way. But your parents aren’t perfect; they need help understanding, too.
Be Open to Questions
Know that the people you come out to may ask questions. Lots and lots of questions.
Sometimes, they may not always feel appropriate. In fact, they might feel a tad invasive. But they’re just curious! They are just trying to gain an understanding of your newly proclaimed identity.
Know that while it is important to be open and willing to educate those close to you about yourself, you also don’t have to feel like you need to explain everything. There are some things we would rather keep private… there are others we don’t always know the answer to. Just be patient!
Coming Out Never Ends
Heterosexual people don’t have to walk into a room and shout “hey, I’m straight!” You shouldn’t have to, either. But sometimes, it sure feels like we do. We often don’t understand how ingrained our sexual and gender identities play into our everyday lives until we realize we’re queer. Do you talk about your girlfriend when all the other girls in the room are discussing funny things their boyfriends said?
Whether you decide to disclose your LGBTQ identity or not is up to you and your comfort level. It might always be a little nerve-racking to let people find out you’re LGBTQ. I admittedly still get a little abrasive when I use the word boyfriend. But trust me, it gets easier every time!
Long story short, coming out can be daunting, and sometimes it feels like there are a hundred reasons we shouldn’t do it. But I assure you, once you’re ready, there are a thousand reasons why coming out can be amazing! Being LGBTQ isn’t always easy, but the more confident and open you can be with yourself and those around you, the easier it gets.
Do you have any coming-out advice that you’d like to give? Let your fellow Psych2Go readers know in the comments section down below.
Edited by Viveca Shearin