The action steps of coming out are rooted in being honest with yourself and others about your authentic self. Often those who come through this process comment that your bravery will be rewarded in the deeper and more open relationships you will have with your family and friends. This is no easy task and hopefully this guide will help you navigate your journey smoothly.
First, begin to normalize it for yourself. Start a journal and write the fears and anxieties you have about coming out (Johnson, 2013). Another suggestion is to join a LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Inter-sex, A-sexual) support group; CAPS and Queer Chat are some options on campus. The other group members may be able to validate your feelings, give you further advice, or just share their coming out stories.
Then begin searching out others that you trust, who you think are supportive allies. Those you choose can be other classmates, Greek sisters and brothers, athletic team members, friends, relatives, professors, and/or mentors. Start having conversations with these individuals and discover how they feel about LGBT issues. Their reactions will help you figure out who would be a good person to come out to initially (HRC Foundation, 2013). Having at least one person you can talk to honestly without fear of hiding your true self is invaluable, especially when considering a commitment to come out to others. As you start to tell more people, they form a personal support group that you can utilize as your emotional outlet. The goal is to surround yourself with your own safety net.
When you decide who to tell or maybe the next person you want to tell, make a plan. This is an important talk, so choose a time that you or the other is not in a rush. Advice from a CSULB student is to definitely not tell the other in the midst of an argument or while stressed. If you don’t know what to say, write down exactly what you wish to state about coming out. Others from LGBTQIA community claim it is important to start reading up on specific topics pertinent to this community, just in case the person asks questions you can answer and correct any negative stereotypes they may have. It also helps to bring a book or refer them to the PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) website at www.pflag.org in order for them to learn more, especially if they have additional questions (Niolan, 2013).
People may surprise you and be positive when you expected a negative response. If someone doesn’t react in the way you want them to, be patient (HRC Foundation, 2013). Some people need more time to process and may go through several periods of transitioning before they can fully accept and understand. Since coming out is such a significant step, one that might have taken days, weeks, months and even years for you to make, that same amount of time may be needed for others to understand your sexuality or gender identity (Niolan, 2013).
Take your time and come out when you feel you’re ready. You don’t have to come out to everyone if you don’t want to. If you’re in an environment where your safety or well-being could be in danger by coming out, then don’t do so (HRC Foundation, 2013). You may feel the urge to tell everyone you know, which is great, but may not always be a good idea. This doesn’t mean you are hiding your identity from people, but just choosing when it is best for you. Coming out is an on-going process. Continually throughout your life, you will meet more people like friends, co-workers, classmates and new family members. There may be times where you feel it is important to come out to some of them (Johnson, 2013). Each time you choose to come out it becomes more validating and enhances your self-esteem; and as you continue your journey you will be able to “live your life openly on your terms”(HRC Foundation, 2013).
1. Johnson, R. (July 2013). Coming out of the closet. About.com. Gay Life. Retrieved from http://gaylife.about.com/od/comingout/u/howtocomeout.htm
2. HRC Foundation. (2013) A Resource Guide to Coming Out. Retrieved from http://www.hrc.org.htm
3. Niolon, R. (July 2013). Coming out to families and friends. Gay and Lesbian Resources. Retrieved from http://www.psychpage.com/learning/library/gay/outparents.html