One of the biggest struggles that gays, lesbians and transgendered individuals have to face is coming out to their family and friends. Of course, their ability or inability (in some cases) to come out to their family could depend on a number of factors.
If they are in a socially accepting family, they may come out the moment they realize and accept that this is who they are. However, if their family is not so accepting, it may cause them to hide that side of themselves when they should not have to. They should be allowed to be who they are.
Coming out to friends, people in the workplace and anyone else in your life can be difficult because you never know what reaction you will receive. Some people will be accepting and others will feel lied to because they made the mistake of automatically assuming you were straight.
Regardless of their feelings, this can make it very hard for a person to come out to people that they care about because they might be afraid that their friends and loved ones will suddenly push them away or not accept them.
However, with a little forethought, you may be able to come out successfully and avoid at least some of the nerve-wracking emotions that occur when you make the decision to tell the people you love the most that you are gay (or lesbian or transgendered).
- Plan ahead. If you are not 100% sure of what your family or friends are going to say, then you should always prepare what you are going to say in advance. If the people you are telling love you, then chances are they are going to want you to be happy. Show them through your words that this is what you need to be happy.
Once they see this, they may be inclined to consider their response before saying something they will regret later.
- Decide how you are going to tell them. You may be thinking that you will just have to sit everyone down and tell them. However, this is not necessarily the case. You can take things as fast or as slow as you need to feel comfortable. Also, you do not need to tell everyone all at once.
You might choose to tell the person you know will take the news the best and then go from there. You might think that telling everyone you love the most in one time and place will be easiest. Work with whatever is going to be easiest for you. It has to be your decision because it is your life.
- In person or not? There are many excellent ways to come out to people. You do not have to tell someone in person if you do not feel that is right for you. Telling someone face to face can be hard because they will blurt out whatever comes to mind. This may bring up some pretty hurtful things. If you cannot handle the idea of a person saying things that could seriously harm your friendship or relationship, then you should consider other methods of coming out to them.
One way that could allow for a cooling-off period is through writing a letter. If you send a person a letter, you are going to have time to really think out what you want to say. This will also give them time to think about their reaction more than they would if they had to immediately react. If they are shocked, they have time to let the news sink in before they give you a call or attempt to speak to you. Whether you choose to tell them in person or not is your choice, but it is an option that you have and should make use of if you wish.
- Remember why you are doing this. Many people struggle with the idea of coming out. Some never end up telling people the truth about his or her lifestyle. It is important to remember that you have just as much right to be a homosexual as a heterosexual has to be hetero.
You are telling people because you should not be ashamed of who you are. It may be hard and you may lose some friends, but you should be proud of yourself for going through with it.
- Know that you do not have to tell everyone. Coming out is exciting and scary all at the same time. Some people are comfortable enough they want to shout it from the rooftops. Some people mistake this pride with arrogance, but that is their misconception not yours. Other people only wish to tell a few people. That is also okay. You do not have to tell anyone if you do not want to.
Coming out is a personal choice. If you feel you have to tell someone even if you do not want to, you should not give in to such pressure. The coming out process is hard enough without adding the stress of believing you have no choice. You do! Nobody needs to know, but you, your partner, and anyone else you choose to tell.
- Be prepared to step back for a few days or weeks. Your family, friends and co-workers may be shocked. Give them time to process exactly what you have told them. Even though homosexuality is spoken about much more than 20 years ago, it is still a taboo subject in some circles. Try to ignore their first reactions especially if they are negative. Often, people will blurt out the first thing that comes to mind without thought to you or your feelings. Try not to be offended because after they have had a little time to process this information, they may apologize and try to show their acceptance or tolerance.
- Find support from local groups. Depending on where you live, you may have access to local support groups. Many colleges have campus programs that open their doors to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) individuals. These programs often allow non-students to participate on a limited basis. If you are not in college, you should still be able to go to their meetings and events. You can also find resources in your city or town if they have a Woman's Center, Teen Center or another type of Resource Center. Finding the right group all depends on where you live.
If you have come out to your family (or are planning to), then you may want to give your family members a Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) brochure. Many gays and lesbians will include a brochure or URL link to PFLAG when they come out, so their family members actually have a place they can go for support or if they have questions. Many times, just mentioning PFLAG opens up a major avenue of communication. It shows your parents, siblings, and friends you care about them. At PFLAG, they can get the support they need from people that are in their shoes and you can get the understanding you hoped they would always give.
Coming out is not easy. In fact, it may be the hardest thing you will ever do. Remember to stay positive. Keep your chin up. You should be proud of yourself for coming out and proud of being gay, lesbian or transgendered. It is a part of who you are and no one has a right to tell you that you are wrong. However, if some people are not willing to accept you, then they really do not have your best interests at heart.
You will have to make the choice to be around their negativity or lose someone you thought was your family or friend, no matter what. This is the hardest part of the coming out process, but in the end, the decision should be what is best for you, and no one else should have a say in what you decide.