The Ultimate Guide to Coming Out

Coming out is when you decide to tell people about your gender or your sexual orientation. We live in what you might hear called a heteronormative society, which means people generally assume that you identify with the sex you were assigned at birth (cisgender) and are attracted to members of the opposite sex (heterosexual). . But that’s not always the case, and that’s just one of the many reasons LGBTQ people decide to go out.

Why go out?

Coming out can be difficult for you to deal with on your own, whether you are still in the process of coming to terms with your gender identity or sexual orientation, or have come to terms with it completely. But many LGBTQ people get to a point where they need to talk about it or find support.

There are a lot of reasons to go out. You could do this because you:

  • I don’t want people gossiping about you
  • Do you want to start dating and let your family and friends know
  • You want to be accepted for who you are

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It can offer a host of benefits. It can help you develop your self-esteem as you will be able to live your life on your own terms. It can also relieve stress when you feel like you really are.

Coming out is about claiming to be authentic yourself, says Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, MD, professor of psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

Often we don’t think about identity and how it affects our physical and mental health, says Mary Weber, clinical instructor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of California. South to Los Angeles. “We need spaces where we can just show up and be.”

How do you know when to go out?

Coming out is a personal decision that is unique to you. This means that you might face different obstacles than the ones that come out of it. You are the only person who knows when or if you will feel ready and comfortable to do it.

“It’s not a race,” says Hall-Flavin. “Also, understand that sexuality is not binary and can be fluid. Recognize that the feelings you have are your own. You have time, despite social pressures, and it is your right to share this with others. that you choose.

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If you are planning to go out:

  • Think about confidentiality. While many friends and family will respect your privacy and keep this new information to themselves, there is always a risk that they will tell people you don’t want to know. If you talk to your therapist or counselor about it, he should keep this information to himself, unless he thinks you might hurt yourself or others. Then they will have to report it.
  • Make sure you have a support system. It can be helpful to speak to a therapist or an anonymous helpline if you cannot speak freely about your gender or sexual orientation. These resources can help you plan your exit or deal with reactions you might not expect if you come out.
  • Think about all the possibilities. For example, if you are not living alone and there is a possibility that you could be evicted from the house or be physically injured, it might be safer to wait.
  • Trust yourself. Coming out is a personal process, so don’t feel like you have to do it because of certain situations or people.

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Lauren Aadland-Halling, a vlogger who creates content via This Colorful World YouTube channel, finds it easier to go out when she’s in a relationship. She is originally from California and now lives on a farm in Småland, Sweden, with her wife.

“Now that I’m married, I usually drop ‘my wife’ in conversations within the first few minutes of meeting someone new,” she says.

It’s good not to go out

There are also reasons why you may decide not to go out. You could:

  • Feeling that gender and sexual orientation are too personal
  • Fear discrimination, bullying, harassment or violence
  • Don’t see a reason to discuss these topics
  • Still determining your gender or sexual orientation

Coming out has consequences, says Hall-Flavin. Some can be positive; others don’t. “It varies considerably from family to family and from society to society. Make a list of the pros and cons based on your situation.

How do you do?

There are many ways to get out. You could:

  • Inform the person by phone
  • Send an e-mail or text
  • Tell them in person, face to face
  • Write a letter

You will also want to think about what you are going to say. Ask your LGBTQ friends to share their coming out stories, if they’re comfortable doing so, to give you some ideas on how to handle this on your own.

“One thing we encourage is to test the waters for everyone you reach out to,” said Janet Duke, founder and chair of the board of directors of Strong Family Alliance, a website designed to help families when loved one comes out. “Talk about current events around LGBTQ, characters from movies and books, or an LGBTQ friend and see what kind of reaction you get. It can help you assess attitudes.

Another good rule of thumb is to be positive and upbeat when coming out. It can help set the tone for the conversation. Don’t go out if you’re angry or having a fight with someone. It shouldn’t be an act of revenge.

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“I’m used to taking a strategic approach to conversation,” Weber says. “Because it can be very emotional, it can be very triggering and very scary if you are really worried that people are not being assertive or supporting you. “

Aydian Dowling, transgender activist, influencer and coach, says what you say might depend on who you are talking to.

“If he’s someone who matters to me, then I’m going to have an intimate conversation with him,” he says. “If it’s just someone I run into on the street, then I’m going to say it proudly, without the stuttering.” … If I am speaking to a child, then I will use language that I think will work best with him.

Who can you tell?

You can date anyone. Most people don’t usually go out once. You may decide to date different people, such as your family at one time and your friends and coworkers at another time.

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Family and friends: Many LGBTQ people decide to go out with their friends or family. If you want to start slow, consider talking to a trusted friend first. As a family, try to find allies to talk to. It could be a sibling or cousin you get along with.

Coworkers: You can also go out to work. Before doing so, check to see if your employer has a written non-discrimination policy that covers sexual orientation and gender. You can search for a resource group of LGBTQ employees in your workplace and check out the general atmosphere. For example, do people make offensive jokes or comments?

Start the conversation by talking about LGBTQ-related news, TV shows or movies. Or bring a date or partner to company events. They might even meet you at work one day.

What to expect when you go out

The people you date will have a range of emotions and reactions. They may have a lot of questions or not know what to say. They might be surprised, worried, or shocked. Or maybe they already suspected it.

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Dowling says the process can be nerve-racking. “You just don’t know how people are going to react. Someone might behave with your face, but slowly stop talking to you. Months go by, and now you either don’t hear from them or they are just avoiding you, he says.

“Sometimes people think, ‘Well, if my parents don’t assert me… if they reject me, then I can’t live a healthy, happy life,” Weber says. “Sometimes families and our loved ones are not as good with their own families. There might be other people who would really be more assertive, and it’s important for us to keep an open mind to these people so that we don’t get lost and feel hopeless.

While coming out is personal and may not be the right choice for all LGBTQ people, Aadland-Halling says it can influence the community around you as well.

“No doubt about it, you come out for yourself,” she said. “But a lot of people who are homophobic or who have negative stereotypes about us do so because they have very limited experience with gay people. Coming out could completely change the way someone views the LGBTQ community, and it’s a really powerful thing. “

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