Coming Out Day
If you are the one receiving the news, remember that most people do not come out to just anyone, you are important to them. People only tell those that matter to them the most, their loved ones, friends and family, those individuals who have had the most significant impact up to that point within their lives. If someone close to you wants to share this part of their life, they are likely scared, so try to keep an open mind no matter how difficult it is for you. It is okay to acknowledge how you feel, and you do not have to pretend, but give yourself time and try not to say something you may later come to regret. The person coming out is important to you, and they want you to know the real them. You may feel like they have been lying to you for all these years; the reality is that they have just been trying to come to terms with it in their own way. They are still the same person, and this is only one part of what makes them, them.
If you are the person coming out, I know it is scary, and you likely have many concerns, but you have chosen to tell these people for a reason. You have known them for most of your life, they are important to you, and you are important to them. They might be shocked, hurt, even angry, but remember this is a journey, one that ultimately will mean you can share your truth, the part of you that you have kept secret for so long.
To help, we have compiled six honest and practical tips. However, the most important thing to keep in mind and remember is why you are doing this – for those that matter to know the real you.
Your story To tell
You likely have doubts, which is natural, 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?
Planning for the reveal
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 other people that identify as LGBTQIA+? How do they usually react 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. Remembering all the time that they are important to you, and you are important to them.
It is also essential never to do it in anger or to hurt those around you when coming out. 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 about what message it portrays to those around you, most likely that something personal to you is seen as a negative.
If someone is hot-tempered and may react negatively, then consider this in your approach. 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, especially if people need space. If it all gets a little heated, is there somewhere you can stay overnight? Though some of the reactions might be negative, given the initial shock of the situation, they will hopefully come around over time.
Start of the journey
When you are coming out, think of it more like the start of a journey. Though many may have suspicions about you; however, 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, leave immediately and get out safely. People will need to cool down, and your personal safety is the 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 empathise and be patient. If you feel nervous, tell someone close to you, someone you believe can support you. Once you have come out to one person, it becomes easier.
Set the tone
It is your story to tell, so set the tone. If you treat the news of coming out as a negative, others will likely respond to it similarly. You are being honest with those you love. 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 explain your journey. Knowing that it has taken you time, that it was a journey and not something 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. Suppose your friends and family have limited access to or positive experiences with members of the LGBTQIA+ community. In that case, they will likely be using stereotypes as a reference. Reinforce the message that stereotypes are not accurate. Like in your local community, there is 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.
You are not alone; millions of people from different races, religions, and social-economic groups have come out to friends and family now and over the years. 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 but is not the only thing that defines you and how you live your life. I wish you the best of luck and hope that all goes to plan for you
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