“I am Gay” are the words many people have to say when they come out. “Coming Out” is the term used by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people to describe their experience of discovery, acceptance, and openness of their identity in their decision to disclose this with others when and how they choose. While coming out can be a challenging time, most people get a positive and supportive response from family and friends and feel happy that they made the decision to come out. For some people, not so much. People come out at all ages and in different ways. Some people can be out to a few people in their lives or somewhere in-between.
Everyone’s experience of discovering their LGBT identity is different as is their experience of the stages of coming out.
Stage 1 Discovery – this is where you start to question if you might be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender because of feelings you’re having.
Stage 2 Acceptance – this is when you start to accept that you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Telling the first person is a sign of acceptance.
Stage 3 Integration – this is when you begin to get comfortable expressing your lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender identity and living your life accordingly. Getting into a same-sex relationship is a sign of integration.
It is normal to experience feelings of anxiety and worry especially in relation to how people might react when you tell them. Here are some tips to consider when YOU are ready to come out to friends and family.
- Consider the timing.If you’re going to spill the gay beans at Thanksgiving (which most people do), do it afterdinner, not before or while you’re passing the cranberry sauce. Someone’s gone to a lot of trouble to cook this meal, so first enjoy the turkey, and then raise the topic at the appropriate time. Consider this: Do you still live under your parents’ roof or rely on them to cover expenses such as your education, clothes, car payments, gas money or insurance? If you think they’ll be reasonable in their reaction to the news, then go for it, but if you think they might try to use this in some
ay as leverage against you (for example, restricting who you can see or even perhaps cutting you off financially), then waiting until you’re no longer dependent on your parents might be a better time to come out to them.
- Think about the positives.When you tell your parents you are LGBT, always be sure that it is coming from a place of love, not from anger or resentment. You may even want to preface the conversation with a statement expressing that you are telling them this because you love them and want to be closer with them and hope for them to know and understand you better. This initial conversation is not the best time to express your own doubts or concerns about being gay because it will only fuel your parents’ anxieties and also make it seem like you are not fully sure of the certainty of your news. BEAU readers have said that they have found that parents often try to “talk their children out of being gay” as a first response so a good way to avoid that is by using a positive and affirming tone when you are discussing this with them.
- Forget the stereotypes. When gay people first started to appear on TV and in the media, the stereotypes that were common were those of effeminate camp men and butch women…..wrong! Some people still think that every gay man and woman have to fit that stereotype. Others may feel that the stereotypes have flipped and gay men should be muscular and have beards while lesbians should have long blonde hair and wear lots of makeup! The truth is, stereotypes suck and we all know they do. Being lesbian, gay or bi does not have to define you. If you’re camp, great. If you’re butch, fantastic. If you like going to the gym, good on you. If you prefer a good film to a good run, amazing. Growing up (and discovering your sexuality) is all about finding out who YOU are, what you like and how you want to be and it’s an exciting time!
- You don’t have to choose between your faith and your sexuality. Most religions have groups for their lesbian, gay and bisexual followers. Having faith and being gay are not mutually exclusive!
- Don’t feel pressured. You should come out in your own time. Remember this is YOUR life, YOU control it! You may feel under pressure to tell those close to you that you are LGBT before you are ready, Don’t. Coming out is about YOU and no one else. If you start to think about pleasing others you will lose sight of what is really important – YOUR happiness. Focusing on yourself and what’s important to you will make those you’re close to happier as well.
- Be ready for the “hellfire and damnation” argument.If your parents are nonreligious, skip to #7.But like traditional Southern Baptist parents, read on. You probably aren’t going to win this argument in the first conversation, but you canavoid losing it. Educate yourself with some basic answers to what you know will be their main arguments. They may not comprehend what you’re saying or even agree with you if they do, but at least they’ll know you have given this a lot of thought, and you’ll know how to respond to them in later conversations.
**Pro-tip for Parents** Now is a key time to embrace your child! They were terrified to tell you! Praying, wishing and believing will not make your child straight. If doing these things meant that homosexuality would not visit a Christian home, then we wouldn’t see it cropping up so often. I have heard countless stories of people who prayed, did everything right, followed every suggestion, and poured themselves wholeheartedly into being straight–only to experience disappointment and self-loathing. Your child does not deserve this.
- Stay calm, even if your parents aren’t. Be ready for them to get angry, melodramatic and downright cruel. Don’t join in. Keep your cool and be the rational adult in this encounter.
- People’s approval or permission is not required. Don’t expect too much from your parents right away. It’s taken them a lifetime to believe what they believe, and that’s not going to change in one conversation, and maybe not even in 100 conversations, so try not to measure the success or failure of your first coming out conversation by their initial response. If it’s not what you had hoped for, don’t despair and don’t give up. Give them time, but do not give them the impression that you’re asking for their approval or permission. This isn’t about them. It’s about YOU and who YOU truly are. Show them that you are the same person they’ve always loved, just more honest now.
- Know when and how to make your exit. It’s important to be sensitive to what people may be feeling and put yourself in their shoes. Your parents’ concerns may be all over the map, from, “Will we ever have grandchildren?” to, “Please, God, don’t let my son get AIDS.” Whatever happens, try to leave the door open, even if you or your parents feel like shutting it.
- Give people time. You may have had years to get to a place where you are comfortable with being lesbian, gay or bisexual. Just think though, those people who you will be telling will have a split second to give you a reaction. Give them chance to digest the news. It may come as a complete surprise. Surprise and shock doesn’t mean disapproval. They may have questions, so pre-empt what these could be and be prepared to support them too. They may need your support as much as you need theirs!
- In the end, know that your parents love you, your friends love you, and we love you! Give your parents time! If they don’t come around, hey at least you were honest with them and with yourself! You will be amazed at how free you will feel once you have come out. Obviously, the experience is different for everyone and at times it may not go as well as you’d like. Just remember that you are doing the right thing, you are allowing yourself to be who you were always meant to be and this means you can start living YOUR life! Remember to create that safety net around you though, just in case things don’t go exactly to plan and remember, IT GETS BETTER!
Now, Welcome to the fabulous world of the LGBTQ community!