Whether you’re as far in the closet as you can be or you’re halfway there, coming out is rarely easy. It doesn’t matter whether you're telling your friends or family, new work colleagues or a teacher; there's no fail-proof, easy way of coming out – especially if you don’t want to be asked a million questions afterwards. If you're wondering or worrying about how to come out, then you're in the right place.
Being anxious about coming out is normal – especially if you're not sure how someone will take the news (or are concerned they will react negatively). You may find out that the person you reveal all to says they've known you were queer all along. They will hopefully – dream scenario – embrace you and tell you they love you, and that who you choose to love makes no difference at all to them.
And if that happens, amazing. However, as gay people, we soon found out that no one comes out of the closet just once. In fact, coming out is something we have to repeat multiple times throughout our lives – when moving to a new neighborhood, when starting a new job, when visiting a new doctor, etc. The list goes on. So, with that in mind, I've put together these 10 coming out tips – it's lifelong advice that should serve you well.
Of course, at the time, coming out of the closet often feels terrifying, particularly when you're unsure how a person will react. So, whether you’re thinking of telling your Mum, Dad, great aunt or your pet Labradoodle, here are a few 'dos and don't' coming out tips that you should keep in mind when speaking your truth.
Don’t let anyone pressure you into coming out – you’ll probably know when the time is right. If this is your first experience of coming out, you also don’t have to tell everybody you know all at once, so take one step at a time and tell someone you trust first. If they react well, that person may be able to support you on your journey and when you decide to come out to others. They may also help you decide how to come out to other people if you're unsure of the best way to do so.
Even if you explain your sexuality in the greatest of detail, people don’t always understand or see it quite so positively as you to begin with. But don’t let that necessarily hold you back. Unless you fear major repercussions that may disrupt your life and well-being (eg, being made kicked out of your home), don't let a potential difficult conversation hold you back from coming out. People also adjust with time and education. Coming out initially is the scary bit, and the rest is history. You will probably feel a whole lot better once the weight is lifted from your shoulders.
Say it loud and proud: one of our coming out tips
When considering how to come out, be aware that the discussion shouldn't descend into an interrogation situation, but also be prepared for a whole host of questions. For example, coming out to your 'rents is often a step up from telling a couple of your friends at school/college/work, so you could easily be facing questions about ‘the future’, ie, marriage, kids and all that jazz. However, you don’t have to know the answers to any of those questions right away, so just be honest if that's the case.
Following on from the last coming out tip, not all of us have a super intimate relationship with our parents or pals, so when discussing your sexuality you may not feel comfortable chatting about that twink you've been lusting after or your watersports fantasy (actually, definitely don't tell mention that one to your folks).
“When considering how to come out, be aware that it shouldn't descend into an interrogation situation. But do be prepared for a whole host of questions.”
However, don’t be afraid to open up a bit more about your feelings once you’re past the initial, dramatic ‘coming out’ reveal. Hopefully you can build a deeper trust with the person you come out to by opening up to them more about your situation and feelings. In fact, revealing such a personal and intimate part of your life with them may help to strengthen your bond – even if you think they will react badly at first.
Saying that, your coming out may come as a big shock to someone, but don’t be put off by this. Remember, some of us know what our sexuality is from a young age and others realise much later in life, so the person you come out to may also need some time to deal with getting used to the idea, just like we did. This coming out tip may be particularly relevant if you're coming out later in life and have previously been in relationships with someone of a different sex.
When planning how to come out, the location of the conversation you'll be having should also be a major consideration. You need to be able to talk (and listen) in a relatively calm setting with few distractions – you don't want to be your big gay reveal to be upstaged by some loud idiot on their phone and the person you're telling deserves the space and peace to absorb your news.
Things may also get emotional, so you probably don't want to be on 'display'. Think about whether you want to do it at home or another area, such as a café you know is quiet or a place you both know well together. The only time it does make sense to come out in a very pubic place is if you believe the person you are telling may react with violence or aggression.
Coming out is scary but can be joyous, too shutterstock/pixelheadphoto digitalskillet
If you're unsure how the person you're coming out to will react, it's a good idea to consider the worst case scenario and prepare for it. But do not take a negative reaction personally. If someone has a problem with your sexuality, remember, it's their problem, not yours.
As mentioned earlier, some people may react with shock or fear at first, but many people will come around to accepting queer family of friends with time. However, be prepared for the idea that you may need to educate people and that it make time time and effort. If the person you are telling is someone you really love and you know they love you too, steps can be made to overcome
You may have been secretly dating a daddy or stepping out with a skaterboy for some time already. However, shoving your new beau in the face of the person you're coming out too is unlikely to go down well (unless, perhaps, they are totally adorable and have amazing people-pleasing skills).
“LGBTQ+ people have to come out multiple times throughout our lives. Follow our ten tips to learn how to handle the situation calmly, with care and compassion.”
Seriously, though, if you're having a heart-to-heart coming out chat with someone, one tip would definitely be to make that conversation intimate and without outside interference. Saying that, if you believe they person you are telling already has their suspicious and would be open to meeting your new lover upfront, consider it.
When thinking about how to come out, it's always a good tip to have a friend on standby for a chat or a coffee in case things don't go to plan. Tell one or two of your best buddies about your plans to come out and let them know that you may need a shoulder to cry on. Hopefully, though, instead you'll be ringing them up to tell them you were welcomed with lovely arms.
So, you might feel loud and proud, but sporting your 'Some people are gay, get over it!' is definitely not the way to break the news to Mum and Dad! You never know, though: maybe they'll be wearing one in the future as they feel so proud about their queer kid! •
We LGBTQ+ people have to come out multiple times throughout our lives. And while coming out is often a nerve-wrecking experience, follow our ten tips to learn how to handle the situation calmly, with care and compassion. The more we come out, the easier it gets with time. Good luck with sharing the real you! •
Main image: shutterstock/ViDI Studio
How do you go about coming out to people? What coming out tips would you offer up to the community? Share your ideas and stories below...
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