5 Tips for a Positive Coming Out Experience
National Coming Out Day on October 11th is a day dedicated to honoring members of the LGBTQIA+ community who “come out” publicly regarding their sexual orientation or gender identity. “LGBTQIA+” is an acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual (and so many more!).
Coming out is an incredibly personal experience, and it can feel like a challenging decision to make—only you can decide when is the right time and place to do so. Although it’s not an easy process for some people, it is often a highly rewarding experience. Research shows that individuals who have come out say it was freeing experience which increased their self-esteem, self-efficacy, and empowerment. People who come out have lower stress hormones, and fewer symptoms of anxiety, depression, and burnout than those who remain in the closet.
If you’re ready to come out this October, here are five tips to make the process easier….
1. Build a Support Network
Though coming out can seem like a daunting task, you can get by with a little help from your friends. Forging a support network, whether they are LGBTQIA+ themselves or straight allies, can be incredibly helpful in providing you with the emotional support, understanding, and encouragement to make it through. If you aren’t comfortable disclosing to friends yet or have trouble finding someone who understands, you may consider getting an LGBTQ-affirming therapist through an organization like Framework or the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Online support groups can also be found through an organization like Daily Strength.
2. Communicate Clearly
Have you ever heard the old advice to just rip off the Band-Aid? Because although it may sting, it’s only for a second. When coming out, be as direct as possible. Stay on the message and be clear exactly what you want the other person to understand. Beating around the bush or cushioning the message can result in misunderstandings and less desirable responses, such as “It might just be a phase,” or “everyone has had these experiences.” You will find that speaking your truth and being authentic will be a driving force towards your own self-acceptance and self-love. Here’s one hypothetical outline for what you may choose to communicate….
· Start by letting the other person know just how important to you they are, and that you are about to tell them something that you hope makes your relationship deeper and stronger. You value them enough not to keep a secret from them.
· Disclose your LGBTQIA+ identity. Let them know how you define yourself, and how important your identity is to you.
· Convey that you’re not “a new person” but simply the same person they have always known, simply more self-aware and honest about who you’ve been.
· Allow them space for questions or reactions…which brings us to tip #3.
3. Try Not To Internalize Other’s Reactions
One recent poll showed 49% of non-LGBTQIA+ people labeled themselves as “supporters” of the community, while another 38% labeled themselves as “currently neutral” and signaled they were open to learning more about the community. That’s a pretty high chance that there will likely be people in your life who react positively and supportively in your coming out. However, there may be others who don’t. Although it’s disappointing, try not to take their difficulty with your identity as your own problem. There are many people who struggle to understand in the beginning of receiving such news, but overtime, become educated and more open. But it’s important to know, you should never feel pressure to risk your safety or well-being by coming out, and you have every right not to disclose to someone unless you need or want to do so.
4. Take Your Time
Coming out is a life-long process and never a single event. Those who decide to be open about their sexual or gender identity tend to do so over time, becoming more comfortable disclosing to a wider network of people after gaining more courage, experience, and community support. My next piece of advice to you—Relax! You may be feeling elated about coming to terms with your identity. However, coming out is more like a marathon than a race. Try starting with one person you feel most comfortable with, and let the process unfold organically. Try to take your time, remaining mindful and emotionally present throughout this milestone in your life.
5. Remember What’s Important
Try to remember that at the end of the day, you have now embraced a more authentic and honest version of yourself, and that’s always a good thing! Your decision to live a life that is grounded in your truth opens up tons of exciting new possibilities—friendship, community, acceptance, love, and personal growth. Try to stay in touch with these feelings of hope as you move through the coming out process.