In an ideal world, none of us would have to come out. But in a world that is, er, less than ideal, coming out is a pivotal time for most people in the queer community.
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For you, it might be a private conversation, whilst someone else may opt for an online announcement with balloons and banners. Although coming out can be a difficult process, in the long term it can help you feel comfortable in your own skin, boost your self-esteem, and even improve your physical and mental health as you ease into your authentic self.
With that said, everyone’s coming out experience is unique and it’s a decision you should make when the time feels right.
Coming out to yourself
The first step in coming out is doing so to yourself. That might sound simple, but as a previously closeted lesbian, I can tell you it ain’t. If you were brought up to believe that being queer was wrong, you’ve likely internalised that belief and don’t think very highly of yourself. Doing that inner work (urgh) is tough but necessary, so be wary of revealing your news to those around you if you’re on the lower end of the self-acceptance spectrum.
Take it slow and work towards feeling self-assured in your identity so that when you do choose to come out, you do so with unwavering confidence. I found reading and listening to other people’s coming-out experiences incredibly helpful. So take a look at our real-life coming-out stories to learn more about the people who have already been through it. Although not essential, talking to a queer-affirming therapist can help you navigate the consequences of coming out.
What are the risks of coming out?
On one hand, being open about your identity can be liberating. It allows you to step out of the shadows and shake off the anxiety of hiding who you truly are. The knock-on effect can be a newfound love for life, a clearer sense of self and stronger relationships with those around you.
On the flip side, of course, not everyone is guaranteed to respond positively. Reactions can range from shock and discomfort to outright rejection. There could be challenges with family, friends, or at work. You might find out people are not who you thought they were, and as sad as it is, we want you to prepare for that possibility.
Who can support you during the coming out process?
Because there’s an element of the unknown in your coming out experience, we suggest planning ahead to identify the places where you feel secure enough to express your true self without judgement. This means that if you do end up on the receiving end of some harsh treatment, you’ve got a loving place to recover.
This could be a trusted group of pals or a particular family member who can offer emotional support during the process. Anyone who makes you feel safe, seen and heard should be your go-to here. Just make sure you give them plenty of warning and get specific about the support you need if stuff hits the fan.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that there are LGBTQ+ organisations and support groups, that can provide advice, shared experiences, and a network of folks who have been exactly where you are right now.
What’s the right time to come out?
Deciding when to come out is a personal decision and can significantly impact your coming out experience. Sadly, there’s no ‘perfect’ time to come out, but there are definitely scenarios that are more conducive to positive outcomes.
Consider the context and think carefully about the steps you’re about to take. Are you in a safe environment? Are the people you’re coming out to in a calm and receptive state of mind? Are you able to go to your safe space if things get difficult?
If you’re struggling to find the right time, be patient. It’s OK to take your time and to come out to different people at different times. It’s wise to start with the people you trust the most so that you can slowly build up a network of people to lean on as you come out to others. You might find you want to come out to your friends first and family later. You might never want to come out to your work colleagues or you might tell some people and not others. It’s your choice and no one should ever force you to come out before you’re ready.
Look after yourself
Part of the prep for coming out is figuring out how to look after your mental health. When I came out, I knew it had the potential to trigger a depression relapse, so I tried to make a plan in advance. For me, this was a list on my phone of all the things that I could do when things got hard. On the list, I had things like doing yoga, writing a gratitude list, drinking water, and texting a friend.
For you, it could be planning some time off work, scheduling social activities, asking your friends to check in on you or making time for hobbies that stop you from ruminating. If you’re seeing a therapist, consider booking a session to talk through your feelings before and afterwards.
Dealing with reactions to coming out
One of the challenging parts of coming out is surrendering to the fact that you have absolutely no way of controlling how others respond to your news. But you can control how you react to their behaviour. If you face negativity or rejection, it’s crucial to remind yourself that their words aren’t a reflection of your worthiness and they aren’t the truth of who you are.
For those who react negatively, just know that it’s OK to distance yourself to preserve your mental health. You have the right to set boundaries for your own well-being.
Prepare to be surprised
You might find that the person you thought would be cool about it is anything but, and the person you feared telling the most is actually super happy for you. Remember that the way people react in the first instance isn’t permanent. You’ve had a lot longer to get comfortable with this information, so sometimes they just need a little time to process what you’ve told them.
Know that not everyone understands the significance of coming out, so if you want your disclosure to remain private it’s a good idea to be explicit in that request. On the other hand, if you don’t want the burden of coming out to extended family you could allow certain people to share the news on your behalf. It’s your choice.
In any case, remember to lean on your support network. This is a time to take care of yourself and surround yourself with positivity and understanding.
Team Nonchalant x
If you are struggling and need some support please reach out, below is a list of helplines and websites you can visit:
Stonewall – you can visit their website or call on FREEPHONE 0800 0502020, lines are open 9:30-4:30.
Switchboard LGBT + Helpline – 0300 330 0630 lines open 10-10 daily.
The Mix – call their helpline on 0808 808 4994.
Last Updated on 26th December 2023 by Nonchalant Magazine