Recap of last lesson: Coming to terms with your sexuality (whatever it might be), is going to be one of the best things you can do for yourself. Knowing exactly where you stand will help you overcome future obstacles.
Onto Lesson Three: Coming Out
WARNING: this will be one of the hardest things you will ever have to do. And results aren’t guaranteed.
You now know, for a fact, that you are gay. There is no denying it. And you’ve accepted yourself for who you are. That’s great, really, but that alone won’t give you a happy life. It’s not enough to be knowledgeable of your sexuality – you have to be able to live freely.
And living freely means telling the people closest to you that you’re gay.
This isn’t going to be easy. There is no way to sugar coat the potential disastrous outcomes that can result from coming out, especially if the people you are coming out to are narrow-minded.
Then why come out at all?
Who wants to live in a closest their whole like?! Honestly, no one. No one likes hiding their true self from people, especially family and friends. It involves constant lying and paranoia, and that kind of stress can ruin your life. You may lose friends or family members when you come out to them, but wouldn’t you rather be out and be proud then hiding away like a coward?
Clarification: not all people who are still in the closet are cowards. Everyone has to come out at their own time, when they are ready to do so.
But if it is your time, and you are ready to come out, I hope this blog post will help.
Many people might try to come out to their parents first. I actually do not agree with this. Parents can be some of the most difficult people to come out to, and you have to really be mentally prepared to deal with the outcome. I suggest coming out to a really close friend first, especially if you are in your teens/early twenties. Usually, for adults who haven’t come out yet to their family, they live on their own. So their friends are more likely to be knowledgeable of their sexuality because they are living a life separate from their parents. But many younger individuals, especially if they are underage, live under the thumb of their families.
If you are young, or still live with your parents, tell your closest friend first. This friend should be someone you trust, who is your friend because they like the real you. But, how exactly do you come out to them?
You should go out to lunch or coffee with your friend. This puts you in a public setting where most people tend to feel calmer. Do not, and I repeat, do NOT come out to someone over text message or email. I have personal experience with something similar, and I can tell you that only bad things will come of it. This needs to be face-to-face. You may not want to do it at your house, or theirs, because you do not want families’ opinions to get in the way, or accidentally come out to someone you weren’t ready to come out to. Unless you live on your own, that is.
Tell your friend that you have something important to confess to them, and that it is difficult for you to tell them. Because, trust me, it will be hard to come out to someone for the first time. You might choke, or chicken out, or open your mouth and no words come out. If the friend you pick is really your closest friend then, guess what? They probably already know you’re gay, or they may have figured it out by how nervous you are. They may interrupt you at this point, and point out that they have known or that they have just guessed.
If they don’t interrupt, then you cannot escape saying the words “I’m gay” – and I can tell you not to just blurt it out, but at this point your nervousness is so intense you probably will blurt it out. And all you have to say to your friend is: “I’m gay, and it’s who I am. I value our friendship, and I hope this doesn’t change our relationship.”
Now, if they are really truly your friend, they won’t care. They shouldn’t care. Being gay doesn’t change who you are – it doesn’t change your personality or make you become someone you’re not. If they’re your friend, they will understand that this is a turbulent time in your life. They will accept you for who you are and embrace your sexuality as a point of worth in your friendship.
If they do not do any of the above, they I hate to tell you this…they aren’t you friend. You should drop them, immediately.
Friends are the easiest to come out to, though. Usually you pick your friend’s in accordance to your likes, dislikes, and personalities. So your friends are more likely to take news as good news.
It’s your family that will be the hardest. But here’s a little insider tip: your family members may not take it well at first (mine didn’t), but eventually they will. They will have their “aha” moment. One day, maybe without warning, they will turn around and start accepting you, without any explanation. Mine did. This means that, internally, they have accepted that which they cannot change, and have decided that it isn’t really such a big deal.
To come out to your family members, you’re going to want to do almost the same thing as above. Bring your closest family members into the main room in your house, and tell them you have something to tell them. Explain to them that this is very hard for you, that you do not want to hurt anyone, but you have been hiding something for years and you just have to tell them. You can’t keep it in any longer. It’ll be one of the most nerve-wrecking things you may ever have to do, but just take a deep breath and say “I’m gay, but that doesn’t change who I am. I am still the same person I was five minutes ago. I still love all of you.”
If your family is awesome, or if they have already figured it out, they won’t take this news badly. They will be able to accept your sexual orientation instantaneously. If your family is shocked by this news, or maybe is more of a traditional family, you will have some speed bumps. They may have a mild reaction, where they will only take a few days to accept this fact. Or they may have a very severe reaction. You have to hope for the best, but expect the worst. My parents’ reactions weren’t exactly the greatest – there was a lot of crying and a lot of yelling. But almost three years have passed and they have come to accept me, and my partner, fully. Time isn’t your enemy, but your friend. Some family members are not ready to hear that their child is gay, and react badly. They may need some time and space before realizing that they cannot change it, so they might as well accept their child for who they are, and not try to change them.
A good idea is to do some research. There are some books that have a collection of coming out stories. Look online at blogs and videos about people’s coming out stories. Get advice from friends who have gone through similar situations. Go to a LGBTQ group in your school or community and speak with the people involved in it. Knowledge and preparedness are your best weapons. Know how to answer the tough questions family members will throw at you. Know where to go if things don’t go the way you planned it.
We are all hoping for easy and happily received outing. But it doesn’t always happen. Not everyone is going to come out in the same way, and not everyone is going to react in the same way. They may yell at you, they may say hurtful things, they may cry, they may hug you and tell you it’ll be alright. That’s why it’s good to be prepared. Know who to go to, and who to talk to, when things get hairy.
After the hurdle of friends and family, who you come out to next is up to you. It could be your co-worker, your boss, your neighbor…but it’ll be easy. You’ll have this weight lifted off your shoulders from coming out to your family that it’ll be no big deal. All of a sudden you’ll be like “Yeah, I’m gay. So what?” Trust me, family is tough. After you get that behind you, everything becomes easier.
Because it really isn’t a big deal, right? Who cares what anyone thinks? You’re gay, you can’t change it, so might as well smile wide and be proud.
So you can do it. You can come out to the people who you love. And remember, they love you too. They might act shocked, hurt, and defensive, but they love you, no matter what they say in the heat of the moment. Some people just need more time than others. But you can do it – I have faith in you. I believe in you.
And after you come out to the people who matter, and you can breathe again and smile again, you’re on to the next step: knowing your community.