Coming out is the process by which someone expresses that they might be lesbian, gay, bi or trans*. It is not something which everyone goes through; it is sometimes not convenient to be open about this, however other people find it important to express that they are in the LGBT banner.
Everyone goes through the process differently. It’s inherent to the fact that we are surrounded by so many different factors to consider. The reason why LGBT people have to come out is that the expectation by other people is that people grow up to be heterosexual and are attracted exclusively to the opposite sex; an assumption which is true for most people. While there is no definite advice or cure-all to a perfect “coming out”, the following advice should hopefully give someone who is considering coming out something to think about.
The first thing for someone to consider is why they might come out. Often it is the case that they want to be open about themselves and allow other people to get to know their real selves. As well as this, there are other benefits to coming out, such as no longer having to carry the burden of keeping this part of their identity a secret, being able to live their life the way they want, getting a chance to meet other LGBT people, being able to be comfortable with themselves and being supported by those around them (by educating them about who they are).
It is important to remember that while someone who’s coming out has much time to think about their identity, those around them may be new to this information and therefore may take time to accept who they are. Some of the negatives to consider when coming out are one’s safety, negative responses and homophobia. It is always important to consider one’s own safety before coming out; if it is unsafe it may be better not to come out until later on or in a different environment. As already mentioned, someone coming out has had a lot more time to come to terms with this part of their identity and therefore it’s important to realise that those around them may also take time to come to terms with this part of their identity.
Don’t feel the pressure to come out; just because you’re starting to understand this part of your identity doesn’t mean that the right time is now. Be sure to feel easy about coming out and don’t feel that you must.
Remember to chose who to tell carefully. You may want it to be someone you can trust so that you have the opportunity to tell other people by yourself without people finding it out from gossip. If it’s someone who doesn’t know other LGBT people they may struggle with understanding what this means, but with time they’ll be able to understand as well as you do.
It’s often easier to tell friends than family as they often know you better on a day-to-day basis. They may have questions, so remember to allow for them to get a better understanding. It is best to do this in person rather than by text, etc.
Coming out to family can often be harder because they may have many expectations of you (having children, etc.). Try to reassure them that LGBT couples have many options to have children. They may also feel that they have done something wrong, but try to make them feel that they’ve done something right in that they’ve allowed you be comfortable with who you are and that while it might be difficult to understand this part of your identity you’ll talk to them about their worries and that they’ll be able to understand that this is normal.
University is often a good opportunity to come out. For some it is the first time they have independence from their background (school, family, etc.). Many people also feel that Uni is a good time to come out because it provides an opportunity to live a lot more openly with people from many different backgrounds where everyone is individual in their own way.