Continuing our discussion of the closet this week we’re going to explore why coming out is hard. I think that we can all agree regardless of when we came out or what our circumstances were that it was one of the most difficult things we’ve ever done.
When it Really Isn’t Safe to Come Out
As we consider how challenging it can be to come out it is very important to recognize that there are some times, and places, where coming out is dangerous. If you find yourself in one of these places or situations please wait until you’re safe.
Safety is an extremely important thing to consider for queer youth who are vulnerable to losing their homes. It is equally critical in countries where coming out can have you face jail time or worse. Please proceed with extreme caution in these cases.
The Things We Tell Ourselves
Whenever you consider a change as life-altering as coming out it is natural for your mind to come up with worse case scenarios. This is something we all do to protect ourselves. But, just as a new job does not pose a real threat to life, neither does coming out.
As you consider something that requires as much courage as being open about your sexuality it’s normal for your ancient programming rear its ugly head. We need to deal with that fear in order to move forward.
Facing Your Fear
There are a few things you can do to help with the fear that will inevitably show up when you consider doing something this difficult. The first is to take each of those scenarios and ask yourself how likely it is that things will be that bad. Even if they were that bad would it really impact your life the way you fear?
The second is to start slowly with people that you know will handle your news well. That way you can start to build a support system to lean on if the going gets tough.
The best thing that you can do to help you deal with the fear is to find an ally. This is usually someone who is close to you, but not too close. Someone you know will accept you as you are. The main thing your ally brings to the table is perspective. They will help talk you down when the terror is getting the best of you, and be there for you if things go sideways. A coach, counselor, or therapist can make a great ally.
Even with the freedom and self-actualization made possible by coming out you must recognize that there will also be loss. The life you live now will never be the same. As hard as your life might be sometimes, it’s also familiar and safe.
This is even more true for those of us who are older. The longer you wait to come out the more impactful it’s going to be to your life.
For men in straight marriages that shift will be very significant. The pain you may experience when you separate from your spouse and possibly children shouldn’t be underestimated.
Another way that your ally can really help is by giving you clarity regarding the magnitude of the change you’re about to make. Be gentle with yourself and take time to mourn the life that was as you celebrate where you’re going.
Coming out is frightening, it turns your world upside down. But, you can find the courage to embrace who you are and be open about it when and where it matters most. Doing that will empower you to heal from the losses you might face and move into the life you’re meant to be living.