Making the decision if or when or to who or who not to come out to can elicit various and confusing emotions. Every individual’s coming out will be different because everyone’s environment and life experiences are unique. Coming out involves a process of accepting and valuing your sexual orientation/identity along with sharing your identity with others. This can be a very heavy process as our society enforces stereotypes, microaggressions and codes surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity, people can receive messaging that they must act according to society’s standards or definition of gender. For queer persons, there could be a feeling of not fitting into societal, social or familial roles. Coming out can be such a scary process, as this involves having to confront societal attitudes and responses toward queer people. It is not uncommon for people to feel shame, isolated, guilty, or scared. Given this, individuals do not move through the coming out process at the same speed, people come out at different ages and in different ways. You are the only person who can decide when and how it is safe to come out. You also don’t have to come out to others if it doesn’t feel safe to! This process is yours and yours only.
How to Support a Loved One Coming out?
Having someone come out to you is really an important experience, this person may feel close enough to you and trusts you to be honest with you. It is normal to not know what to say or how to be supportive.
Some things to consider are:
- ASK the person who is coming out what they need to feel supported throughout this process. Again, this process can feel incredibly scary and emotional.
- ASK how they would like you to describe or to refer to them. For example, they may prefer non-binary pronouns.
- THANK this person and commend them for their courage to share that with you. It takes a great deal of courage to begin this process of coming out to others
- RESPECT this person’s boundaries and confidentiality. They may not feel safe to share with others, respect that! Additionally, do not assume this person has come out to everyone if boundaries have not been clarified.
- If you have questions and do not feel comfortable discussing with the person, research and then come back to discuss them with this person in a supportive and compassionate way. There are several resources online.
- Do not label the person who has come out or suggest coming out is a ‘phase’. That can be extremely invalidating of the experience of coming out and of their identity.
- Resources surrounding supporting yourself or others coming out:
The Trevor Project: https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/guide/the-coming-out-handbook/
Human Rights Campaign- Coming Out: https://www.hrc.org/resources/coming-out
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