Today is National Coming Out Day, a day to celebrate LGBT+ people living openly and visibly! Many people also take National Coming Out Day as an opportunity to come out of the closet to someone important in their lives. Sharing an authentic part of who you are with someone you care about can often be scary and intense; it can be a beautiful moment of connection or an intimidating level of vulnerability. Sometimes coming out is super chill, and sometimes it’s anything but. Sometimes it goes exactly as planned, and sometimes people surprise you (for better or worse!)
There can be so many unknowns with coming out, both in the moment and with life afterwards. And so we’ve come up with a list of Top 5 Tips for Before Coming Out, and Top 5 Tips for After Coming Out. If you’re thinking of coming out this National Coming Out Day (or any other day), we hope these ideas will be of some help.
Top 5 Tips for Before Coming Out
1. Slow Down!
It is ok to take a moment to slow down, stop and think. Sometimes we can feel rushed or pressured to come out. Sometimes we feel like we have to come out. But there is no right way or time to come out. Just because it’s National Coming Out Day does not mean you have to come out today. It is ok to wait to come out when you want to. And it is ok to come out in the way that you want. Furthermore, if you don’t feel you can come out, remember you are just as valid and valuable as a person while in the closet. You do not have to come out at all, especially if you do not feel it is safe to do so. Don’t let anyone else tell you when or how to share your truth. Take a minute, check in with yourself, and make sure this is something that you want for you, and not something you feel you have to do.
2. Safety First!
Sometimes coming out is a really positive experience, and sometimes it isn’t. Having a support network in place to help you before and after coming out can be really crucial. Support networks can take many forms, from a couple close friends, to a community youth group, to a trusted online space. If you need someone (or somewhere) to go to after coming out, it is best to have that support set up and in place just in case. But further to this, if you’re not sure how the person you’re coming out to is going to react, then having a supportive person with you in the room can help keep you safe. Remember to make a plan to keep yourself safe should you need one.
3. Study Counterarguments
If the person or people you are coming out to have particular political, cultural and/or religious beliefs that you feel might mean they won’t be accepting, do not lose hope! Instead, do your homework. There are LGBT+ people from every background, and those people have found ways to justify the combination of their beliefs and identities. There are LGBT+ Tories, Muslims, Christians, you name it! And these LGBT+ people have created YouTube videos, websites, blog posts, books, and many other resources to explain counterarguments to their group’s anti-LGBT+ positions. Study what they have to say, and hopefully you might learn some strong counterarguments to offer should the person you come out to have any reservations.
4. Share Resources
Sometimes one of the biggest barriers to supporting something is a lack of understanding about it. Before we come out, we tend to spend a lot of time researching and learning about LGBT+ identities and topics. But the person you come out to may have never learned anything about the LGBT+ community, and so they may be confused or worried, or worse, have to rely on stereotypes and social myths. A really helpful way to make this process easier for the both of you is to know of some good resources to direct them to. That way, if they have any questions or concerns, or just need a bit of an education, you’ll be able to point them in the right direction.
5. Seize Power
Coming out can often feel like we’re handing power over to someone else. We share something private and personal about ourselves, and they have the power to accept or reject us. In that moment, they are handed the opportunity to make a judgement and influence our lives. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Instead: seize the power. This person does not get to decide whether or not you are acceptable or valuable. It is far more important for you to accept and value yourself. You get to be the person who asserts your own worth. You get to decide your own boundaries. From this position, coming out is an opportunity to invite someone else to get to know you better. And if they do not react positively then that is a reflection on them, not you. You are acceptable and valuable, and they have no say in the matter.
Top 5 Tips for After Coming Out
Congratulations on coming out! Coming out can often be a difficult and scary process! But you did it! And you should be so proud of yourself. Not just proud to be LGBT+, but proud to be a brave and strong person. And so now you get to celebrate! You get to celebrate being you! Maybe the coming out process went well and you feel liberated and joyful, or maybe it went poorly and you’re feeling low. Remember, the other person’s opinions do not measure your value. You have done something brave, and you have honoured your truth. No matter how well your coming out went, it’s commendable, and you should be proud of yourself. Take a moment to remind yourself how amazing you are and celebrate you.
Before coming out to anyone else, you probably spent quite a while coming to terms with your own identity. After all, usually your very first coming out is to yourself. Sometimes, people spend years negotiating their identity before they tell anyone. And during that time there’s a lot of thinking, researching and figuring things out. But then we come out to someone else and we expect them to have it all figured out right away. Try to remember that just as you had some time to work through your identity, it might take other people some time too. It can be frustrating, but try to be patient and allow people the time to do their homework, learn and grow just as you have.
Express yourself! Try new things! And don’t be afraid to parade your new look in safe places! Maybe you’ll come out and nothing will change, that’s ok! Or maybe you’ll take this as an opportunity to try presenting as more feminine or masculine. Maybe you want to experiment with different types of clothes, or ways of walking and talking. Maybe you’ll start to carry yourself differently or start speaking differently. The opportunities are endless, and only you get to decide how you want to present yourself in your personal time. So be free! And see what works best for you!
The world might feel a little different now. You might have to deal with more queerphobia. You may be confronted with more direct instances of hetero/cisnormative ideas and problems. Things might change for you, hopefully mostly for the best, but there will still be new challenges and struggles ahead. Do not let these deter you! And don’t give up! Resist oppression when and if you need to, and always remember you have a community who will back you up and support you.
If you thought this was going to be the only time you’d need to come out, then I have some bad news for you. Surprise! It was just a practice round! The truth is, you will have to come out many more times for the rest of your life. But the good news is: the more you do it, the easier it gets. Until eventually coming out will be as casual as telling someone your name. Some coming outs are bigger and more important than others, but no coming out is the end of a journey. This is just the beginning, and there’s a big queer world out there waiting for you!