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Ten tips for coming out

Samantha Watts

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Coming out of the closet doesn’t start with the words, “I’m gay.” It starts long before you have the courage to say anything aloud. From self acceptance to counselling to chatrooms online, coming out is a long and laborious process through which, unfortunately, a lot of LGBT+ people don’t survive. However, with these helpful tips and tricks, the hope is that a young LGBT individual can come out of the closet in as healthy and timely a manner as possible.

  1. Make sure you’re ready. There’s never any rush to come out of the closet. If you come out before you’re ready, you’ll end up with a lot of remorse and you’ll want to retract and deny that you’re LGBT+. Make sure you allow yourself however much time you need to become comfortable with whatever term you use to identify before you start telling other people.
  1. Make sure you’re completely safe. Sometimes it’s better to stay in the closet until you’re in a situation where you feel protected and you’re as shielded as possible from anyone who will physically (or emotionally) try to hurt you. In reality, there is no complete safety for anyone LGBT+, so it’s up to you to judge when you’re as safe as you can be. The best situation for coming out is when you’re not dependant on anyone for shelter or other amenities so that you don’t have to worry about homelessness.
  1. Talk to a counselor. LGBT people are two to six times more likely to commit suicide than straight/cisgendered individuals. The best way to prevent this tragic outcome for yourself is to visit with a counselor before coming out to anyone, as well as frequenting counselling or therapy after you’ve come out. It’s not shameful to seek professional assistance, and that could mean going to a therapist, a support group, or just the counselor at your school. All of the above are sworn to doctor-patient confidentiality agreements, so they’re the best people to tell first because it won’t spread.
  1. Seek out a support system. This will be the second to last step you take before coming out to the people in your life. Seek out other LGBT+ people, preferably your own age, who can help you through the coming out process. This could be openly LGBT people at your school, an LGBT chatroom online, or a physical support group where everyone in the room is LGBT and has struggled with coming out themselves. This is an easy way to prove to yourself that you’re not alone, and it also helps with finding coming out tips, as no one speaks better than those who are experienced in the matter. No matter what you’re going through, there’s someone out there who has been through virtually the same thing, and they can help you learn from their mistakes and what they did right.
  1. Tell the people you trust the most first. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for who you choose to come out to first. For some, it’s going to be your parents, but others can’t trust your mom and/or dad to support you, so it will be a friend, another family member, a teacher, or any one person or group of people who you know will be there for you until the end. This will give you a good basis and help you feel better about coming out to the public. If you don’t have anyone you trust enough to tell first, that’s okay; your best option in this case would be to tell the people who will react the least harshly. Having a support system and speaking to a counselor will help in cushioning the blow. Prepare for it to hurt, but don’t do anything drastic–it’s bad now, but it will turn out okay in the end.
  1. You don’t have to tell your parents/other family. Again, don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re a bad person for not telling your family. Those who have had to come out before will understand–in some situations, it’s better if your parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents, or other family don’t know. Hopefully, you’ll one day be able to tell them the truth, but until then, there’s no shame in keeping it from them. Whatever keeps you safe from any harm is the best path.
  1. You never stop coming out, so get comfortable with it. Whether it’s to new friends, coworkers, landlords, doctors, or complete strangers, once you’re out, you’re coming out almost every time you meet someone new. This is less true for polysexuals and genderqueer individuals, but still true nonetheless. The best option for you is to 1) get comfortable with saying the term you use to identify and 2) perfect a spiel so you don’t have to write one every time. Get used to saying, “Actually, I’m gay,” “I don’t have a girlfriend, I’m pansexual,” “I don’t use the men’s restroom, I’m transgender,” and more, because you’ll more than likely have to use it every now and then, and nothing’s worse than fumbling for the right words to casually come out to a stranger.
  1. You can talk about it as much or as little as you want. It’s fairly common for the straight, cisgendered people in a LGBT+ person’s life to verbally complain about how often the LGBT+ person discusses their sexual or gender orientation. While these complaints can be discouraging, you should never let anyone make you feel like you’re not allowed to discuss your sexuality openly. On the flip side, some people would rather discuss it as minimally as possible, if at all. This, too, is perfectly acceptable; you don’t ever owe someone an explanation of how you identify. You don’t have to explain it to every stranger who asks, you don’t have to correct people when they assume you’re straight, and you don’t have to walk around with a rainbow tattooed to your forehead. How each individual person expresses themselves is up to them entirely, either way.
  1. It’s okay to be in the closet. With the constant heteronormative assumptions that a LGBT+ closeted person can often experience, the pressure to come out of the closet can become immense. While this stress can lead to thoughts of, “Should I come out?” remember that you don’t have to come out until you’re completely ready. No societal, familial, or other forms of pressure should make you feel like you have to come out–because you don’t. If you feel safer and more comfortable in the closet, that’s perfectly okay as long as you have a healthy outlet through with you can release that stress.
  1. 1-800-SUICIDE. When your support system feels like it’s failing, your friends or family aren’t there for you, and you feel as if there’s nowhere to turn, suicide or self harm is never the answer. Look up your local suicide hotline or call 1-800-SUICIDE to speak with a 24-hour grief counselor who will listen to your troubles when no one else will. This can be an excellent form of stress relief and can give you some outside perspective on your own value to the world, offering support when coming out feels impossible or being out turns into too much to handle. Just remember that there are always options, and just because you feel like your world is falling apart doesn’t mean it is–eventually, it will all turn out okay.
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Ten tips for coming out