CW: discussion of homophobia/transphobia
Tips for Coming Out
Say What You Want To Say. Think about the right way to communicate how you identify and what you are feeling. This is your moment to express yourself openly and honestly, so take as much time as you need.
Find Support. When deciding who to tell and what to say when you come out, find a supportive person with whom to share ideas. Positive feedback and encouragement from role models can help determine what is the best course of action when coming out.
Remain Calm. Many parents and friends are incredibly supportive when people they care about come out, while others may feel surprised or upset. Either way, try to remain calm about the situation, and know it will take some time for parents and friends to adjust to this news about your sexual orientation or gender identity.
Be Confident. Along with staying calm, remind yourself of how courageous it is for you to share this part of your identity with others.
Stay Positive. In the event of negative reactions or unexpected reactions, remember to stay positive. Talk to a supportive peer or mentor about what happened and be prepared when your friends or family returns with questions.
In addition to understanding potential risks and rewards of coming out, it is also important to prepare yourself for what coming out as LGBTQ will entail.
Your decision. You may feel a lot of pressure to come out—or not to come out—from the people around you. Remember, however, that you are ultimately the person in charge of making this decision. You will live with the consequences, both positive and negative, so coming out should be your decision.
Come out to supportive friends & family. Consider which members of your family and friend group will be supportive. If you suspect someone will react negatively, then consider the decisions you may be faced with after coming out. It can be hard to determine how each person you know will react, so take this into consideration when choosing whom to tell.
Timing is important. Try to choose a time that is right for you, and also right for the person you are coming out to. People may not respond well if they are already stressed or emotionally strained, so you might want to wait for a time when they are more relaxed and available to support you.
For individuals unsure if they should come out, here are a list of reasons why others come out.
To be yourself. Coming out to family and friends affords you the opportunity to be the person you really are! To celebrate in that person you are and be proud of all that you are. This can increase self-esteem and self-confidence.
Decreasing stress. Living part of your life in secrecy can be exhausting and stressful. For many, coming out means being able to live a life more openly and honestly with those around you who matter.
A sense of community. The LGBTQ community can be a strong, uniting and vibrant force to be a part of, offering acceptance for who you are.
Maintain genuine relationships with people. Living honestly and being able to share everything you are with people you love can be wonderfully fulfilling and lead to more meaningful and closer relationships.
Standing up and being counted. Coming out can means that non-LGBTQ people and potential allies are introduced to LGBTQ issues. Also, you can become the person someone else looks up to for support and guidance.
Reasons Not to Come Out
Sometimes coming out may put you in a dangerous or unsafe situation that jeopardizes your livelihood. In these situations, consider waiting to come out. Whether or not you are “out”, your LGBTQ identity is well valid. Seek out safe spaces to meet other LGBTQ people and learn more about your sexual orientation or gender identity.
Reactions to Coming Out
Below is a list of potential reactions you may experience or witness after coming out to family and friends.
Surprise: We’ve all been in that position at times where we’re not sure we heard properly, or are convinced that somehow we’ve misinterpreted what someone said.
Honor: Some people may react positively, and even feel honored to know you chose to open up with them. This is a good time to encourage anyone who reacts this way, to become an ally.
Denial: Some consider this to be the “I don’t believe it” or “It’s just a phase” stage. Denial helps people protect themselves from a message they find very difficult to hear, or do not understand. Give your friends and family time to process through this reaction
Guilt: After coming out, people may say things like “Its all my fault” or “What did I do wrong?” Parents, in particular, may feel very strongly that their children are LGBTQ because of something they did. Remind your parents that it is no one’s fault, and you are happy as you are.
Relief: In some instances, family and friends may have assumed your sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Individuals closest to you can be very perceptive, and may feel relieved to know you are growing more comfortable and confident with who you are.
Questions: Many friends and family members will react to your coming out by asking questions as a way towards further understanding. Some of these questions may be personal and potentially uncomfortable. In this instance, it may help to have resources available that your friends and family can utilize.
Rejection: Unfortunately, some people may reject you for identifying as LGBTQ. This may involve intolerance, invalidation, or even restricting financial support. If you need to remove yourself from the situation, go some place safe, like a friend’s house or an LGBTQ-friendly space.
Change: Sometimes even strong relationships can change or be altered after coming out. Positive change can occur, which usually means the strengthening of relationships. Negative change can also occur after coming out, and can make people feel isolated or alone.
Coming out is a process. Just because positive responses do not happen immediately does not mean that a little way down the road that this won’t change. The initial conversation is just the beginning of what will hopefully be an on-going dialogue and process of understanding between you and the other person. Over time, many individuals who react negatively will come to better understand your sexual orientation and/or gender identity.