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When people think of the idea of coming out, it’s often seen as this one-time thing where you come out of the closet and shout from the rooftops who you really are.
But in real life, it’s not always like that. It’s often not just this thing you do once and you’re done. It’s more of a process. There really is no one way to come out, you have to do what’s right for you. So no matter what letter of the community you identify with–non-binary, lesbian, pansexual–your coming out journey is entirely up to you.
If you want to come out but you’re not sure where to start, here are a few coming out tips to help.
Before you can start coming out to others, you need to come out to yourself. So first things first, take some time to learn more about yourself.
You can do some research, take those “am I gay/bisexual/queer/etc.?” quizzes, talk to other people who identify with that identity, join groups online, or even practice coming out to yourself in the mirror. No matter what, come to terms with your own identity first before you start sharing the news with the people in your life.
Only you get to decide when you come out and to who. So go slow if you need to.
If you want to come out to everybody all at once–friends, family, classmates, social media followers–that’s great. If you would rather start with a friend and wait before coming out to your family, that works too. Start with the people you feel the most comfortable with and go from there. Or hey, if you don’t feel comfortable coming out to anyone just yet, that’s okay too. It’s your coming out story, you make the rules.
The most important thing is your safety. It’s important to think about the idea that if you come out to a person, will you be safe with them if they know. This isn’t as relevant if you live on your own, but more if you’re living at home with your parents.
If you’re not sure if somebody is safe to come out to or not, think back on past conversations with that person. What have they said about the LGBTQ+ community in the past? Was it positive? Negative? You can also learn about a person by seeing how they react when you share a news story about a celebrity with an identity like yours (i.e. “did you hear Demi Lovato came out as non-binary?”) or when you bring up a hypothetical situation about changing your identity (i.e. “how would you feel if I married a woman?”).
If they react in a positive way, that’s a great sign that they would probably be pretty accepting. If not though, it might not be safe to come out to them right now. If you still really want to come out to family, try and create a plan before telling them (i.e. is there someone else you could live with like a friend or relative?). Your safety is more important than anything else.
Chances are, people will have questions. Most of the time, this is all new to them. Sometimes their questions can sting, but most of the time they mean well, they might just not know any better. So you might want to prep in advance for questions like these:
Sometimes when you come out to people, they don’t always react how you want them to. It’s hard, especially if you’re close to them. Be patient.
I know when I first came out to my mom, it didn’t exactly go well. For a long time, she kept saying stuff like “when you finally meet your husband…” to which I kept correcting her that whoever I marry could be of any gender. It took her a while, but she did eventually come around and now says stuff like “when you and your future partner get married…”. So even if someone is not accepting at first, it is possible that with time, they will come around and accept you for who you are.
After you come out to people, let them know what you need. Maybe it’s their word that they won’t tell other people about your identity. Or their support for big LGBTQ+ events in your life like coming with you to your first Pride parade or driving you to top surgery. What that looks like really depends on you and can change over time.
Coming out is a process and there really isn’t one “right” way to do it. With these tips though, you can have a clearer idea of where to start and what to expect. Just remember that no matter how people react, you’re going to be okay and you’re still an incredible human being exactly as you are.
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