We all deserve the right to live our lives authentically, completely, and honestly regardless of our nationality, religion, color, or sexuality. Unfortunately, society may not be as tolerant when it comes to sexual orientation.
As such, lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender people become aware of their gender identity or sexual orientation and may take years to tell their families and friends. Having said that, only come out when you absolutely want to. Take control of the issue and remember that it will most likely be a process rather than an event. Clarity shares their ten-point guide developed by LGBT counselors to coming out as gay.
A Ten-Point Guide to Coming Out as Gay
1. You are not obligated to come out. While many gay people find it to be a huge relief, others don’t want to come out because they consider their sexuality to be a fully private affair – therefore it’s entirely up to you. Come out only when you are at ease and confident in your ability to do so. No pressure!
2. Coming out could be a very good experience. After all, being honest with family, friends, and coworkers can be liberating. You can also serve as a good role model for others who are thinking about coming out.
3. If a gay person has come out to you, remember that most gays live in secrecy because they are concerned about how others may react. They’re worried that they won’t be accepted or that they’ll be judged differently. That said, if someone comes out to you, one of the finest things you can say is, “I still feel the same way about you.”
If it’s a lot to process, it is completely fine to state that you need some time to process the information. Even so, make sure to communicate that your sentiments about the person who has come out to you haven’t changed. It makes them feel accepted!
4. Gay people coming out worry about different things depending on their age. Younger people are often more concerned about peer reactions and approval, as well as whether or not they would be bullied. Older people, particularly those in heterosexual relationships and possibly with children, may face unique challenges.
If you’re in such a situation, remember to tell your children that you are still the same person. Communicate with them and tell them that you still love them and that you still feel the same way about them when you come out to them. If at all feasible, enlist your ex-partner’s help and tell the kids together.
5. Be aware that people will be stunned and will need time to process the information; be sympathetic to their sentiments. When you tell folks, choose a quiet, calm time so you have plenty of time to talk about it. It’s important to remember that coming out is more of a process than an event. No rush!
6. Important to remember: A bad first reaction does not mean a permanently broken relationship. If relatives or friends react negatively, it isn’t necessarily how they feel all of the time. Allow them time to adjust to the new information. First impressions aren’t always accurate.
7. If you’re truly apprehensive about notifying your family or friends, consider writing them a letter first. From here, follow up with a call or visit. This gives the recipients time to adjust to the news while yet allowing them to maintain control of the situation.
8. When coming out, always maintain control of the situation. As such, it’s critical to consider the method to use when coming out. While you should use whatever method seems most comfortable to you — face-to-face, phone, text, email, social media – keep in mind that some provide greater privacy than others.
If you don’t want everyone to know right away, consider using more traditional communication techniques. Remember to remind them that you want to come out to one family member at a time when you share your news. This protects you from being overwhelmed, so you can stay on top of things throughout.
9. If you’re unsure how some important friends or family members in your life will respond, it’s a good idea to first form a support network. This may entail telling one person you trust and are relatively certain will be helpful. Have that person accompany you when you come out to others if required.
10. Last but not least, if you believe a friend or family member is LGBT, remember that you cannot – and should not – compel them to come out. Let them do so at their own time. Nonetheless, you can create an environment in which they feel accepted and comfortable coming out.
Ultimately, the journey of coming out can be hard but liberating. At the end of the day, remember that it is a personal decision. As such, do things the way they suit you best. Good luck!