Coming out can be terrifying, even if you’re certain your loved ones will accept you. There’s no one way to do it and every time you do it (trust me, you’ll have to do it a lot) it will be different. But there are some ways you can make the experience easier for yourself.
Make sure you’re safe.
Coming out, especially to people who may not understand, can be a risky business. If you’re not sure how someone will react or you know that they hold homophobic or transphobic views, it might be a good idea to have this discussion in a public space. A café, a shop or while out on a walk. Basically, anywhere where you can be amongst people but can still have a private discussion. If you have someone in your life who already knows and accepts you, maybe ask them to come too, to support you.
If you think you will be in danger of physical or emotional abuse if you come out to someone, reassess whether you need to come out to them right now. It can be hard to stay in the closet, especially if you’ve already got one foot out, but your safety is the most important thing. You can let your rainbow flag fly when you’re in a safer situation.
Right or wrong, the people in your life often have expectations of how your life will go or an idea of you as a straight or cisgender person. It can be shocking to suddenly have those expectations dismantled, especially for a parent or family member. Just because they react in a negative way at first doesn’t mean they are homophobic or transgender. They might just be surprised. Give them some time to digest it; after all, you’ve been thinking about your sexuality or gender for a long time. They may need a little time, too.
Just because you’re being sensitive doesn’t mean you should back down. You know you better than anyone else. Tell them who you are and stick to it, no matter how much they try to convince you that you’re wrong.
Don’t say…I think I might be gay/bi/transgender. People may jump on the word ‘think’ and interpret as you being uncertain. If you’re coming out, then you must be pretty damn sure that you’re not straight or cisgender. Be firm.
Do say…this is who I am. People may question you, your family, your friends, your co-workers, random people in shops. “But are you sure?” “You don’t look gay.” “But you were just dating a guy!” Stand strong. It can be hard to hold on to your own identity when faced with such a tidal wave of doubt and confusion, but if you do, I promise you it will be worth it.
Hopefully soon we won’t have to come out. People won’t just assume that you’re straight and cisgender. But, for now, we have to make sure we have safe, easy ways to come out. And once you’ve come out once, you’ll have to do it a lot. I came out when I was fifteen; at 22 I am still coming out all the time, to roommates and friends and people I work with. It doesn’t matter how many times I do it, it always feels like a big deal and it always feels like I’m being true to myself. It can be one of the scariest things you have to do but being who you really are is a right everyone should have.