“Coming out” is a term used to describe sharing information about your identity or past that has previously not been known. You can come out to yourself or to other people.
Disclosing your identity or feelings shouldn’t be forced upon you. It should be something that you choose to do – you should never feel coerced.
The first step of coming out is usually making a realisation about yourself or acknowledging something about your identity to yourself.
Coming out is linked to being different and it challenges the set of assumptions (or norms) that others and society put on us. People don’t usually come out as being heterosexual or as being cisgender. This is because they are seen as societal norms. You come out as trans, non-binary or something else because of the assumption that you are cisgender.
Coming out is different for every person, a truth that can make the process more complicated – or simple. Because, when you come out on your terms, there’s no “wrong” way to do it. It may not be a one-time thing – you may also discover several identities later on, as you get older. And that’s perfectly fine too.
Coming Out is a Process
There may even be stages that you’ll pass through, such as
- Disclosure to others
- Socialisation with other LGBTQ+ people
- Positive self-identification
- Integration and acceptance
- And… the lifelong journey.
They won’t necessarily come in that order but you also don’t have to jump into the deep end straight away either. Read along to find a way of coming out that is best for you.
Spend Some Time with Self-Discovery
Coming out to yourself is perhaps the most powerful and important part of your journey especially as it can take years to figure out what identities feel right to you.
The self-discovery phase is one where you can experiment with where you are, how you want to talk to others, how you present yourself and more before telling others (if you choose to).
You may find that you’re still learning about yourself, and whether that’s finding the right words or communities that feel good to you before telling anyone else. This path to self-discovery can also help you develop self-acceptance.
Take some time to do your own investigation about yourself. This could mean reading the work of others before sitting down and asking yourself the hard questions that might take a while to answer.
Coming Out To Friends and Family
Before coming out to others make sure you consider the following:
- Do you think this person will be accepting?
- Can you trust them not to share this information?
- Do you think that they might hurt you if you come out to them?
These questions can help you determine whether you feel safe enough to come out.
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- To parents
Coming out to your parents can be scary and stressful. The people who raised you are usually the people who you want to accept you the most. Depending on your parent’s politics and personal views, this can be even more so the case.
Before coming out to them, consider their thoughts and feelings towards LGBTQ+ people. If it feels safe for you, you can find a time to sit down with them or call them and tell them you have something you would like to share with them.
If they didn’t react the way you were hoping they would, you may need to give them some time to digest the information.
- To friends
Coming out to your friends is a big step as they are practically chosen family. If you have friends who are part of the community or share the same identity, consider reaching out to them first.
If they aren’t, think about how they talk about LGBTQ+ people and if you normally feel comfortable talking to them about other important things in your life, and how supportive they have been in the past.
If you are worried about screenshots of text being distributed around, consider talking to them in person, via video, or a phone call.
- To close family
When coming out to close family, consider the same things you would with your parents and friends. It may be a good idea to have resources on hand to help facilitate a conversation.
You may even have another family member that has come out that could help.
- To extended family
Rather than focusing solely on the reaction of your extended family, consider why you want them to know and what you need them to understand about your identity.
For example, do you want them to use the right pronouns or stop gendering your future partner?
Ask yourself: Will they respect my boundaries and wishes? What’s the likelihood of them sharing with other family members. Remember your coming out story is yours to tell, no one else’s.
- To work colleagues
Before coming out at work, consider the protections that exist in your workplace to protect yourself from discrimination for being LGBTQ+. If there are any already out LGBTQ+ people where you work it may be a good idea to ask them about their experiences.
Remember, you don’t have to be out to everyone you work with. If you feel more comfortable not coming out at work, that’s okay too.
Coming Out on Social Media
Coming out on social media can be a great way to find community with fellow LGBTQ+ people. Many people are out on social media before they’re out to people in their life, but remember social media is public, even if you technically have a private profile with restrictions in place.
There’s always a risk that someone might intentionally or accidentally out you to someone else before you’re ready. If this does happen, it’s okay to feel whatever you feel. It’s also within your right to remind them that your identity is not theirs to talk about.
Common Questions You Might Want To Prepare For:
- How long have you known?
- Are you sure?
- What does this mean?
- How can I support you?
- Are there words I should and should not use for you?
- What are your pronouns?
Consider how you feel about these questions and how you would answer.
When Things Don’t Go Well
So, what happens if you take our advice and come out, but when you tell others it doesn’t go well?
Try not to take any negative reactions personally. Unfortunately, coming out doesn’t always go extremely well. Sometimes, people react negatively – and you need to prepare yourself for that possibility.
If someone reacts badly towards you coming out – it says more about them than it does about you. Your orientation is part of who you are.
Sometime people react with disbelief or confusion at first, again this isn’t your fault. They may become more accepting and supportive later on.
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If You Are Worried for Your Safety
You’re never obligated to stay in an environment where someone is making your feel unsafe.
The following can help you with advice and issues related to harassment towards LGBTQ+:
- Discrimination because of sexual orientation
- Gender reassignment discrimination
- Reporting hate crime
- Galop has been working with LGBTQ+ victims and survivors of abuse and violence for nearly 40 years.
- The National Union of Students offers online support and representation for LGBTQ students.
For further advice from our professional lifestyle coaches, contact us at Ceed today!