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How should I come out? Do you have any advice to help?
This is something that every person in the LGBT community has to do in their lives. There are many stages of coming out and there are different ways to approach each step. Each person has a different experience with coming out, so if this doesn’t perfectly fit your situation, don’t fret. Do what feels right to you.
Before going into the different stages, I should tell my own coming-out story. It’s not glamorous, but also not anything extreme. It started when I was a child. I always felt a little different from my peers. I hadn’t put my finger on the fact that I wasn’t straight for a while, but I could feel something. When the boys began to move out of the “Girls are Gross” phase, I did not feel a change in what girls were to me. I, instead, began to think of boys with interest.
While my family wasn’t hateful towards the LGBT community, the social climate at school made me think otherwise. From games like “Smear the Queer” to the prevalence of people saying “that’s so gay” or “fag,” I quickly came to believe that this part of me was bad. How could I not, when everywhere I looked at school, students were making this part of my identity seem evil and wrong?
Lost, I turned to the internet and started looking up information about being gay. Around 7th grade, I came across coming out videos and my world changed. It was the first time I saw gay people being proud of themselves and saying that there was nothing wrong with being gay. I began to become more confident in myself.
In 8th grade, I came out for the first time. I told a friend who lived in Japan so that there would be little fallout if something went wrong. She did not care and it did not make a difference to her; until that point, I only knew fear when it came to my sexuality but at that moment, I felt accepted. I then came out to my friends, and they were just as supportive.
The next big thing I had to overcome was to come out to my family. I was nervous about this in particular, because I didn’t want to change the relationship between us. My sister was easy, I told her over Facebook and after proving that it wasn’t a prank, she believed me.
About nine months later, I told my mom. She is one of my closest allies, so I was apprehensive to come out to her. We were playing scrabble (I know I should have spelled out “I am gay,” but I didn’t think that far ahead) when I asked her, “If you had a superpower, what would it be?” She replied, “I don’t know; what would you want me to have?” At this point, it was clear that she knew something was on my mind. I replied, “I wish you could read my mind.”
I was extremely nervous and had trouble saying anything at this point. I said that I like guys, not girls, and that I hoped she has okay with it. She said that she was surprised, but happy because it was no longer a question if I would get a girl down the street pregnant. About three months after that, I came out to my dad and stepmom over text. No one in my family reacted negatively, and they are all very supportive of me.
Within my story, and for most other people, there are many stages to coming out. The main ones are to yourself, to the first person, to the family, to friends and lastly to everyone else. These stages do not need to happen in any particular order, or possibly may not happen at all, but are common throughout most people’s journeys.
Each step has parts that are more difficult than others. No step should be taken lightly either.
When coming out to yourself, acceptance is a big step. If you’re here, then try saying “I am [fill in the identity here]” out loud. It helps solidify your feelings. Doing this in a mirror is also a good way to make it more real. By standing in front of a mirror, you’re telling yourself in a way that feels like telling someone else; this will also help when it comes time to actually tell someone else.
When coming out to the first person, it tends to be easier to come out to someone who is clearly accepting of the LGBT community. This takes the stress off of you by knowing that they will be okay with it. This might be a little difficult if you don’t know anyone who is clearly comfortable with it, so in that case, you might have to take a leap of faith. In my experience, you never know who will be accepting of your sexuality.
After this first person, it’s generally gets easier to come out to people, especially if they react positively to it. You then have someone whom you can confide in and make you feel more comfortable about being LGBT. Once you come out to more and more people, you figure out your own process of doing so. And once you get the ball rolling, the momentum keeps you going.
Family can be a little bit of a different story. It’s important to examine how safe it is to come out. When you know that your family will be fine with it, come out in the way that you did with friends; if you know that they aren’t friendly towards the LGBT community, taking caution when coming out is necessary.
Minimizing fallout is the best option in this case. That includes distancing yourself from them, finding ways to be self-sufficient, finding ways to not be overly dependent on them, and ultimately, making a safety net to fall back on. If it doesn’t feel right, you don’t have to come out to them yet — or at all if you don’t feel comfortable.
The last stage — coming out to everyone else — is the easiest stage, but also the longest one. Since most of these people hold little to no merit in your own life, there’s little danger in coming out to them. While there are still hostile places in the world, many people won’t care much about your identity and if they do, cut them out of your life. This is the one stage that never ends.
Coming out is a winding path that is different for each person. Take your time walking that path and make sure that you are doing what works best and feels right to you. Accepting yourself is one of the most important takeaways of coming out, and if you love yourself, others will follow.