Continuing our monthly focus on coming out we’ll be taking a look at how to come out this week. Always remember that coming out is deeply personal. It should be done in your way and in your time. Here are a few things I hope will make the journey easier.
Coming out is a life-long journey.
Coming out isn’t a one-time experience. It’s a process that will continue for your entire life. There’s no need to rush. It doesn’t require grand announcements unless that’s what you want. I’m a fan of baby steps taken over time.
How you come out will be different with different people. Friends, colleagues, and family, are groups most of us want to come out to. They are very different kinds of relationships that will need different strategies. For most of us, our families are the hardest coming out experience. So, usually not the best place to start.
Who to start with.
Who should you start with? The best place to start is with a queer person in your existing friend group, or someone you are certain will be positive. Someone who will accept you and allow you to come out to others when you’re ready. It’s important to tell people who will not share the news. You want to remain in control of the situation. A few more friends are likely your next best move.
One of the most important things to do in these early days is to find an ally. Ideally, it’s someone who is close but not too close. Family members don’t usually make the best allies but, there are exceptions.
Your ally’s role is to help give you perspective. Prepare you for bad reactions and help you figure out how your people will react. Your ally will be there for you to offer support, or a shoulder if need be. They must respect your need to come out when you’re ready. A coach or therapist can be the perfect ally.
How to come out to your family.
If you’re like most of us coming out to your family is the most nerve-wracking. So, it’s important to be well prepared and honest with yourself about how it’s likely to go. Be ready to be pleasantly surprised but be prepared for the worst.
If you’re financially dependent on your family and unsure how they’ll react, then wait until you’re safely independent.
It’s usually best to come out to your family as a group if you can. Keeping secrets is hard in families and most people just aren’t good at it. The last thing you want is to have someone share your news before you’re ready.
How should the conversation go?
Regardless of who you’re coming out to keep things simple. If people have questions they’ll ask, when they’re ready. Something as simple as “There’s something I’ve been wanting to tell you for a long time. I’m (gay, bi, nonbinary, or whatever needs to be said here).” Be that direct. Then give everyone space. It can be hard to sit quietly while people process but it’s the best thing to do.
Sometimes people will not know what to say. There may be a lot of questions. Stay calm and let it unfold. As far as the questions go, you don’t have to answer anything you’re not comfortable answering. If you’re getting questions you don’t know the answer to, then be honest. You’re still figuring things out.
Dealing with negative reactions.
It is my deepest wish that everything goes well for you. But that isn’t always the case. People can be ignorant, dismissive, and even mean. The main thing I want you to remember is that it’s their problem, not yours. There is nothing wrong with you. Let them have their opinions. It’s best to break contact with people who won’t accept you. When they deal with their own issues you can decide if you’ll take them back.
As hard as the coming out journey can be, it’s also the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do. Take your time and make the journey yours. It’s your life and you deserve to be as out and proud as you want to be.