The process of you personally accepting your sexuality and orientation and telling someone about it is called coming out. The process varies from person to person. However, coming out of the closet is not as easy as it sounds. A lot of questions might be on your mind, like when to do it, who to come out to, and just what to say? The easiest way to go about it starts with surrounding yourself with others who might be going through a similar phase of coming out or might have already come out. This builds your support system.
Here are a few key points to keep in mind when and if you decide to come out of the closet –
1. There is No Right Age or Time or Place to Come Out of the Closet.
There is no fixed time to come out of the closet or a fixed person you must come out to. The process is much easier when you feel comfortable talking about it, whenever it may be. Some people come out at a very young age while some never come out at all. Some people come out to a select few, while others might reach out to everybody. The point is, there is no right or wrong in coming out. You coming out ultimately depends on your experiences and situations.
2. There Maybe Many Reasons you Might Want to Come Out.
There is no fixed reason for you to come out of the closet. If you’re in a relationship, you would like want to introduce your partner to other people. That is one reason to come out. Others are if you’re looking for a relationship, or merely wanting to surround yourself with people of the same or similar orientation. The reason could be as simple as you wanting to share the news! You don’t need a particular purpose or excuse to come out.
3. Come Out Only if You Want to, And if You Feel Safe to Do So.
These days, many discussions in and about the community revolve around coming out. This might have an adverse side effect on many of you, making you feel pressured about coming out. Sometimes, you might even feel like you’re being dishonest as you’re pretending to be straight. There are many reasons why you might not want to come out of the closet.
One of the major reasons is if you are in a dangerous environment where you might not be accepted. Or if you feel too emotionally stressed. It could simply be you just not wanting to come out. And that’s okay. You shouldn’t be forced to come out before you are ready. And it is entirely okay if you don’t want to come out of the closet at all. It doesn’t make you “fake.”
4. When You’re Ready, Start With One Person.
It’s helpful to have a steady start when you come out of the closet. Choose a person who you trust the most, maybe your best friend, and make sure they are receptive to the community and open-minded. It could be someone who is already out of the closet or might be thinking of coming out. This person could offer you the support you will most definitely need. It’s helpful to have a friendly face with you as come out of the closet.
5. Decide How and Through Which Medium You’re Going to Come Out.
Coming out of the closet doesn’t necessarily have to be a formal talk unless that’s what you are most comfortable with. You could casually slip it in a conversation by mentioning your partner or attending an LGBTQ+ event. It also doesn’t need to be face to face.
Phone calls or video calls are a great way to come out of the closet because if the conversation goes south, you could always hang up. The distance helps in processing the information afterward as well. Texting works as well because some people might need time to respond as they don’t know what to say at that very moment.
Posting or sharing on social media brings lesser anxiety. Since it’s targeted to the general public, it’s not targeted towards anyone, so there’s no need for any particular person to respond. However, it is also very public to come out of the closet through social media. You can’t control who sees your post, or to who it’s shared with. In the end, it’s your decision, and for you to choose what medium you’re most comfortable with.
6. Decide When and Where to Come Out.
There is no particular fixed time or place to come out of the closet, but you must choose what time and place to consider your comfort and convenience. If you’re scared that who you’re coming out to might become physically or verbally violent, you could come out in a public place.
But if you want privacy, you might want to go to a place where no strangers can hear you. If you’re comfortable discussing it at your home, go for it. Ask a few open-minded friends to be with you in case you want some support. Ultimately, you need to choose a place an time that is safe and comfortable for you.
7. There Will Be Questions, Negative, and Positive Both.
You must be prepared to deal with questions that could be positive or even negative when you come out of the closet. However, you don’t have to answer any unless you want to. Unfortunately, many people might invalidate your orientation.
A few people believe that being gay is a choice, and others even think that several of the orientations don’t even exist. You might be told that you can’t be queer because you’ve dated someone of the “opposite” gender. Some people might try to convince you that your orientation is fake.
Remember, your identity is entirely valid, and it doesn’t matter what others say. And do not worry or consider yourself fake if your label changes after you come out. It is, after all, a label. You know what your orientation, your identity is. Make it clear you want their support and acceptance, not doubt and hate.
8. Give The Other Person Time to Process.
Sometimes, even the most open-minded people may need some time to process the new information. A significant reason for this being that they’ve thought of you in a particular way for a long time, and this information is a massive part of you that they didn’t know. To process something so big, they might need some time and space.
No response doesn’t have to be a negative response, even if the silence can be uncomfortable and unpleasant. If, even after a few days, they still seem unsure of what to say, say something. Something along the lines of – “I’d appreciate it if you could let me know that you still love/accept/support me”.
9. How To Go-ahead After.
If you’re coming out to people one at a time, it’s important to let the person you’re coming out to know. You could say things like, “I haven’t told so-and-so about my orientation yet. I’ll tell them at my own pace, so I’ll appreciate it if you didn’t tell them, and kept this private.” If the person is unsure of how to support you, you could send them resources or links to articles that talk about supporting the community.
10. You Have Other Options if Your Safety is Compromised.
If you feel threatened by the people who know your identity, you can try and arrange a stay with an accepting friend for some time. There are helplines available if you need to talk to someone during a crisis, or if you simply need to vent. At work, you can talk to your HR department if you’re being discriminated at work. Several countries have laws that you can use to help protect yourself.
However, if you’re based in a country where your identity is threatened, learn the laws which could help prevent any mishaps. Lean on your chosen community and find an environment where you can surround yourself with a support system. When you come out of the closet, it’s a good idea to surround yourself with people of the same community and supportive friends and allies.
Remember, your orientation is yours. When and if you come out of the closet, it should be done on your terms. Your identity is valid; you are correct. You get to choose if you want to tell someone, when and who to tell, which label to choose or not choose, and how to come out of the closet. Somebody else’s unacceptance doesn’t make your identity fake or invalid.
Coming out of the closet is not a one-time thing. You’ll have to come out several times, such as new friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc. But only if you want to. Unfortunately, we live in a world where everybody is considered to be straight and cis unless stated otherwise. So, you might have to correct people again and again.
If you know or suspect somebody to be from the LGBTQ+ community, it is essential to see if they are out or not. Never out someone who has not come out of the closet yet. Remember that you cannot and must not force anyone to come out of the closet, even if it is well-minded. However, you can create and build an environment where the person feels safe and supported to come out of the closet.
And finally, stay kind, stay safe.