Deciding to come out of the closet is the biggest step you will ever take to being honest and true to yourself and the people around you. This goes beyond just being “out” in terms of your sexuality, but in everything about your life – having no more secrets, no deep dark demons hiding away, no more barriers that separate your true identity from the person you really want to be. Coming out is scary – that’s why we want to walk you step-by-step and give you the best help we can on how to come out of the closet.
Coming out of the closet will not only allow you to live a more honest and open life, but also start to be proud of your identity and sexuality. It is possibly one of the best things your can do for your own happiness.
Coming out can seem huge or even impossible, and the most difficult part is figuring out where to begin. Like any big problem, the best thing to do is approach it one step at a time – start small and move up from there.
So, where should you begin?
How to Come Out of the Closet
Come Out to a Friend
Before you dive into telling the people closest to you, you should first test the waters and gain experience by coming out to a close friend.
Think of this as your trial run that will not just let you get the words out of your mouth for the first time (which can be hard enough in the first place), but let you have someone to talk to and come back to for advice as you begin to move on to more difficult endeavors.
Getting a feel for simply saying the words “I am Gay, Bi, Trans…”, whatever your situation, it is building up a base of confidence with a friend you can trust – this is key. Having an outside perspective can help you to make good decisions for when you do decide to come out to the people you care most about.
Pick the RIGHT Person to Come Out To
Choosing the first person or friend to come out to is crucial.
For some people, finding this person can be a no-brainer – be it your best friend, your boyfriend, or a close teacher. What matters is that the person you choose respects your privacy and is there to support you, work with you, and make the process easier.
If they are a gossiper or someone who isn’t the best at keeping secrets, you might want to look elsewhere. Rumors can spread like wildfire, and YOU want to stay in control. After all, this is your decision and therefore, YOURS to tell.
How to Come Out of the Closet to Your Family
Ok, after you have a few close friends and a bit of experience under your belt, it is time to move up the family. Coming out of the closet to your family definitely has higher risk, but with this comes much higher rewards.
For me, it was one of the biggest weight off of my shoulders and a huge advancement towards building a closer and more open relationship with the people who I care about most.
It is ok to be scared and nervous, but if you are really determined to tell them, it is important to stay strong and keep moving forward.
Timing has quite a few different meanings. This can be in the immediate future, and in the long term.
First, you want to assess your current situation, and think a few months, or a few years ahead. Everyone’s situation is different and therefore needs to be approached differently. If your family is very conservative, or you are financially reliant on them, then you may want to opt for a time when you are more independent and have your own personal support and space to live.
If though you are in a supportive environment then you are the best judge of timing.
Come out when you feel safe and comfortable. I told my parents in high school and took a bit of a risk, bit I am glad I did. It worked well for me.
If you decide you ARE in a secure, supportive environment then look at your routine and pick a time.
You want a situation where you have privacy, and you are both in comfortable and familiar places.
Don’t come out to someone, say, when they are driving, in a busy restaurant, or in any situation that they can’t give their full attention. This is an emotional a process for the both of you, and may be more jarring on them than you expect, so choose a place that you can both be safe and comfortable.
Make a Coming Out Plan
No matter what happens, there are always two possible scenarios – either things go better than you could have imagined, or things blow up in your face.
Either way, no matter what end of the spectrum your end up on, you should think ahead and plan for either scenario.
If by chance things go on without a hitch and the person you tell ends up supporting you with no questions asked, then that is great! That means you can sleep a bit easier!
But there is also a chance that the opposite will happen. There might be tears, there might be sadness, anger, or rejection. The key is to think ahead and consider all possibilities.
This is where your friends that you have already told come in to support you.
You should consult these people who already know to help make the process easier. Share your plans with them before you make your move so that you have someone to talk to, support you and help you through the roughest times.
In the case that things go really badly, you should also try and have a place you can stay for a few nights, with a friend or close family member to try and give each other some space. New information takes time to process, and everyone reacts differently.
This is not to say this will happen to you – that you will get kicked out or your family will explode! Like I said, this is a worst case scenario, but the most important thing is to plan and be ready for any situation.
For me, coming out to my parents was moderate. Not great, but not terrible and the initial storm of emotion and discomfort was over within a few days.
These last few paragraphs may sound a little scary, but it should not turn you away! This is only to give you an idea all the types of situations you may encounter, and in my experience, the people I was most afraid to tell, were actually the easiest!
What I find time and time again is that if someone truly and honestly loves you, be it a friend or family, they will ultimately accept you, no matter their pre-dispositions. True love and friendship are often more powerful and surprising than you might imagine.
Don’t Give Up!
You may freeze up, you may fail to get the words out, your plans may get pushed back again and again, but don’t GIVE UP! I can not tell you the number of times I was ready to tell my mom, the words were on the very tip of my tongue, my speech rehearsed in my head playing over and over again, yet no matter how hard I tried, my lips just wouldn’t move!
Chances are you will have a flurry of emotions and thoughts flying around in your head holding you back. And that is OK! The only person who you need to worry about is you – your comfort and your timetable. You should never feel rushed or pressured, and when the time is right, then one day the words will finally come out and you will say,
“I Am Gay”
Congratulations! You have just done, possibly one of the most difficult, but rewarding things in your life! Things may not be perfect overnight but it is reason enough for you to celebrate and recognize the leap of courage you have taken to be more open and honest with your family and with yourself.
Give it Some Time
Like is said, coming out was one of the best decisions I ever made for my confidence, relationships and identity. Things are pretty great now, but I didn’t get to where I am today overnight!
It takes time for people to get used to and process something as big and new as a different sexually that may have never even crossed their mind in the first place.
For someone like your parents, this may totally re-shape their future idea of you marrying and having biological children, which yes, is slowly becoming possible for gay people too, but can be a big adjustment of their ideas of you and your future happiness.
It may take some time for them to truly digest and accept, but once they do, your relationship and openness with one another will be on a different level than it ever was before.
It Gets Easier
This may only be your first time to tell someone that you are gay, and it may seem scary and overwhelming, but every time it gets a little bit easier as you become more confident in yourself , until one day “coming out” becomes second nature, and you aren’t even coming out of the closet anymore – you are just being you! (Read More Here).
Coming out of the closet sucks sometimes, but it can also be extremely rewarding, helping to reassure the confidence in yourself, and allowing you to be honest with people you care most about. There is nothing more liberating than living life fully and openly with no more secrets to hide.
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Cover Image Courtesy of Hernán Piñera through Flikr Creative Common