All About Coming Out
Coming out is more often than not a very daunting prospect. There’s the worry of how to do it in the least awkward way and then there’s the sometimes overwhelming fear of rejection or hate from your loved ones. I’m going to give you my tips on making the coming out process go as smoothly as possible, and also give guidance to people whose friend or family member has come out to them. So, here are my steps to venturing out into the world beyond the ‘closet’:
1. Be sure that you want to and are ready
Although being scared doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not ready (I was metaphorically pooping my pants), don’t come out just because you feel that you have to. Wait until you are ready. Also, make sure that you have accepted yourself first! If you aren’t comfortable with your sexuality, other people knowing about it isn’t going to do you any favours.
2. Consider the reactions of the people you are planning on coming out to.
It’s a sad reality and it shouldn’t happen, but if you are still living with your parents, you have to think about the possibility of them throwing you out if they are really against anything other than heterosexuality. Try to gauge the opinions of people by seeing how they react to news topics such as the gay marriage debate. This is a more reliable way of finding out their views because a lot of people display casual homophobic behaviour (my mum was all “ew, lesbians” before I came out to her) without even really realising what they are doing.
3. Don’t feel that you have to come out to everyone at once.
I would recommend coming out in stages as this allows you to start off by telling the people you trust the most and get used to the idea of others knowing about your sexuality. If you want your coming out to start small, then be sure to tell only the people who can keep their mouths shut!
4. Be creative!
Coming out verbally is especially difficult, so if it’s not for you, try other methods. Write a letter/note, or even spell it out on a cake! Being creative can also lessen the awkwardness and make it a more relaxed experience.
As you’ll find out, coming out is only the first step. Once you have revealed your inner rainbow, you will have to deal with people’s reactions accordingly. One of the most important things to do is encourage a dialogue. This will help those who you have come out to understand what it’s all about. Prepare yourself for an inquisition; some people like to ask a lot of questions! This is a good thing though, as it shows that they are trying their best to get to grips with the new knowledge. Alternatively, others may not show your coming out any acknowledgement – as their own form of denial. If this happens, then give them their space, but later talk to them about it. This is the only way that understanding (and acceptance) can be achieved. You may find their questions or comments offensive, so try to calmly put your point across. Again, you can’t force someone to understand or accept your sexuality, so if further encouragement does not work, either wait some more for them to get used to it, or make the decision to not have that person in your life.
Sometimes after you come out to someone, they will refuse to believe that you are gay/bi/pan etc. for some time before eventually accepting it. They might need you to reinforce what you have already said. With some, you just have to come out to them multiple times before reaching the desired outcome.
One thing that is important to remember: Those who matter don’t mind. Those who mind don’t matter.
What To Do If Someone Comes Out To You
You may have some mixed emotions about your friend/relative coming out to you. Take some time if you need to, but if you truly value this person, make an effort to talk through your feelings with them.
If the person who has come out to you is of the same sex, don’t assume that they have the hots for you. Respect their boundaries; if they don’t want you tell anyone else: Do. Not. Tell. Anyone. Else. Even if you feel that your mutual friend or whoever else would be perfectly accepting, telling other people about their sexuality without their permission is a complete breach of trust. Jumping right in there and asking invasive sexual questions is also a no (and awkward as hell). Stay classy, people.
Finally, don’t apply stereotypes to your friend or relative as soon as they come out to you. People don’t suddenly change when they come out, they only become more comfortable with themselves.