Congratulations, the hardest part is being honest with yourself. Many spend a lifetime trying to come to terms with their gender, sexual identity or both. The fact that you want to come out means that you know the real you. Coming out is a personal experience, and no one should be forcing you to reveal who you are to your loved ones. It is your story to tell, so tell it when you and only you are ready. Not only that, but everyone’s experience will be unique, though there are similarities between coming out stories, ultimately it is your friends and family that are the unique part of your coming out journey.
You likely have doubts, which is healthy and of course, it is easy to decide not to come out, which is your choice, but ask yourself what it will do to you if you do not?
The first part is deciding who you want to tell and when. These are the people you know well, so try to think through how they might react and the best way to handle them. It is easy to imagine the worst-case scenario, but what if you took yourself out of the situation. Do your friends or family know others that identify as LGBTQ+? How have they reacted when they have heard important news in the past? Even if past situations were negative, it does not mean that they will respond to you in a similar way. These are the people that love you the most, they might be shocked or hurt, but remember you are telling them for a reason, they are important to you, and you are important to them.
When coming out, it is also essential never to do it in anger or to hurt those around you. Even if you are angry at a specific situation, leave and come back when things have cooled down. If you come out in anger, you have to think what message it portrays to those around you, most likely that something personal and real to you is seen as a negative.
When telling those closest to you, if someone is hot-tempered and may react negatively, then announcing in a group or even through a letter or email could be one of many approaches you could adopt. Their reaction might be something they later regret, so approaching it the right way, could help avoid embarrassment. Always have a plan B, if people need space if it all gets a little heated is there somewhere you can stay overnight? Though some of the initial reactions might be negative, it is likely the shock of the situation, give them time, and they will come around.
When you are coming out, think of it more like the start of a journey. Though many may have suspicions about you, having you confirm those suspicions can be upsetting. It might rock the core of their beliefs, feel like they do not know you and even that you have lied to them. The reality is that you are still the same person you have always been, and nothing has changed. Understand that it might have taken you years to come to terms with who you are; you cannot expect everyone to be fully supportive immediately.
People on hearing important news go through a whole range of emotions, try not to take it personally; it is likely just their way of coping. In the unlikely scenario that the situation becomes violent or aggressive, get out safely. People will need to cool down, and your personal safety is a priority.
Remember when you come out, you have not reached your final destination, you are just starting the journey with those around you, so try to have empathy and be patient. If you are feeling nervous, tell someone close to you, someone who you believe can support you. Once you have come out to one person, it becomes easier.
It is your story to tell, so set the tone. If you treat the news of coming out as a negative, then others will likely respond to it in a similar way. You are being honest with those you love, and you are sharing the real you, so use positive and reaffirming language such as “I am still me, I just want to share a part of who I am”, it can also help to explain your journey. Knowing that it has taken you time, that it was a journey, and not something that is being said on a whim, will help people understand the challenges you have faced.
For your friends and family, we fear what we do not know, so if your friends and family have limited access to members of the LGBTQ+ community, they will likely be using stereotypes as a reference – reinforce that stereotypes are not real and like in your community you have a mix of all different people. You are still you, the person that they have always known, and nothing has changed.
Allow them to ask questions and prepare a list of resources they can visit for more information. There are many fantastic resources online and groups where they can get support and speak to people in similar situations.
The idea of coming out is likely daunting and scary, and you may even have run numerous scenarios around in your head, trust in what you know about those closest to you and do not let the fear overcome you. Read other coming out stories for ideas and approaches you could adopt and get support, whether it is from someone that you know you can trust or from the many amazing online resources.
You are not alone; there are millions of people, from different races, religions, social-economic groups that have come out to friends and family. They all likely went through the same emotions as you, but they got through it, and now they are living a life where they are honest with themselves. There is a risk that some may never accept who you are, but those that matter, those that love you will likely come around over time.
You are brave, and your sexual or gender identity is part of what makes you, you, but is not what defines you. I wish you the best of luck and hope that all goes to plan for you
Stonewall - Guidance
Human Rights Campaign
Interesting articles on LGBTQ and Religion (under Religion and Faith)
Trevor Project - Coming out as you