One of the biggest events in an LGBT person’s life is coming out of the closet. Revealing to the world that you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or just not the normal “straight heterosexual” can be very stressful and done in several ways. Coming out of the closet can be a liberating experience, or a dreadful rite of passage. No matter how the task makes you feel, most people are happier when it is done.
Over the years it seems telling the parents and family is the hardest part. Once they know, then you may feel you have reached the end game. Friends and acquaintances can be replaced, but family will always be there to judge you. Some will go for years living a gay life style before their parents find out, others will tell them first.
When one decides to come out, they must go though a few steps. This can take a few hours, or even years. It is up to the individual to decide.
First you have to identify who you are. Knowing you are not straight can put a fear down to the bone. Society has taught over the years that all kids are supposed to grow up, marry someone from the opposite sex, have children, grow old and die. As soon as an LGBT teen knows this will not be their path a feeling of trepidation can consume them. Some might never overcome this and it can have a harmful impact on the rest of their lives. Being comfortable with yourself first and knowing you who you are will help build confidence when coming out of the closet.
Education is the next step. Learning for yourself and from others will help you understand more about your sexuality. Just because you know you are gay, lesbian, or bisexual does not necessarily indicate that you know what all that entails. “What does it mean to be gay?” is a common question that comes up when researching your sexuality. Learning from others and hearing about their experiences and complications will help you understand what to expect when coming out of the closet. This also meshes well with the nest step.
Support. Build yourself a support team. There is no reason that anyone should have to tackle such a huge step in their life alone. It doesn’t matter if you do not personally know another LGBT person, you can get support. There are a lot of resources that can be reached from the internet, by phone, or even physical location. Finding a mentor can really ease the process. Having a friend that you know will support you and telling them your plan can make a huge difference. Support for coming out can have many faces. Don’t just rely on one. Joining an online community like this site and talking to others that have been where you are will help you tremendously when coming out of the closet. Get your confidence level as high as possible. And always know that you are still the person that your family loves.
Next it is time to come up with a plan of action. You have decided that coming out of the closet is the next step. It is time to tell the world who you are. But how? Who should you tell first? This step will be very unique to each person. You know your situation best and only you can decide the best way to do this. Only you can predict how your loved ones will react, and only you can prepare for the reaction. Running and diving head first without a plan can throw you a few steps back. There are various ways to let your family and friends know. You have to do a risk/consequence analysis to decide which way is best for you. Below are some different ways, however there are many to choose from.
- Tell them straight out: Just sit them down and tell them! You control the situation and catch them off guard (sometimes you get the “We already knew”!!!). Just be prepared for their reaction.
- Gossip method: Tell a friend or an Aunt or Uncle that you know will spread the word. Make a post on Facebook! Coming out of the closet this way is preferred by some, but you must be prepared for that phone to ring and the flood of questions that follow. This method gives them time to think about it before you talk to them. So you need to decide if that is good or bad.
- Shock and Awe! Finding a creative or comical way to come out might fit your personality more. There is no end to the ideas for the Shock and Awe way. Some do it with pictures, or writing it in weird places. Sending cakes and balloons with “Hey mom I am a Lesbian” would qualify as Shock and Awe! Just make sure whomever you do this to does not have a heart condition. For some fun ideas, click here.
Of course there are other methods for coming out of the closet and these are just a few. Only you can really decide the time, place, and method.
The last step is execution. Take your well thought out plan and put it into action. The amount of preparation that you put in will pay off. You have thought about how the people you tell will react, and are ready for it. Make sure that you come out on your terms and try your best to control the situation. If things get out of hand then you can stop and re-think your plan. Some good basic rules when coming out is to avoid situations that are already stressful. Pick a time when everyone seems relaxed and comfortable. If you feel better having a third party present at the time, that’s okay. Hope for the best but also prepare for the worse. Everyone might not be supportive, some may even respond negatively. Keep an open mind and be prepared to answer questions.
Coming out of the closet will be different for every person. But one thing that has been said over and over again is you cannot expect others to be happy for you. You need to love yourself and accept yourself before you ask others too. Once the process is completed you will feel a lot better.