Realising you’re Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender can be an incredibly freeing process, but it also brings with it a new set of challenges and stresses. One of the big things that can stress people out as they come to terms with their gender or sexuality is the pressure to come out.
The first and most important piece of advice I have to give is that you don’t have to come out at all if you don’t want to, or don’t think you’re ready to. It doesn’t make your sexuality or gender any less valid if you don’t want to tell people right now, or ever. If your home situation isn’t one that’s too accepting, it can be a brave thing to do to keep being LGBT+ to yourself, in the interests of your safety. Don’t let anyone tell you you have to be out, especially if it might make things more difficult for you.
Sometimes though, staying “in the closet” about your gender or sexuality can take a toll on your mental health. It might make you anxious or depressed if you feel like you’re keeping a secret from everyone, and in that case coming out can help your mental health. If you decide you want to come out, here are some tips on how to do it.
Pick a supportive person
It might be a close friend, or a parent, but think about who you think will respond well and trust to keep it to themselves, if you don’t want other people to know yet. Maybe pick someone else who is LGBT+, if you know anyone. You can choose to tell as many or as few people as you want, but it can make the first time easier if you’re more confident of a positive reaction. Having one person know means if you want, when you have some of the ‘scarier’ coming out talks (with parents, for example), you can take someone with you.
Think about how you want to tell them
You might prefer to do it face to face when you’re alone, or to write down what you want to say in a letter- there’s no set way to have an important conversation with someone, and you should do it however you think you’ll be most comfortable. You might want to write things down and give the person some space to read what you have to say, before talking about it. Try to make sure you’ve got enough time to not feel rushed, and if you’re nervous maybe grab a nice drink or snack to have with you. Cafes can be great neutral spaces that give you a bit of privacy if you want to talk to a friend, and sitting down with a cup of tea can make the situation feel less formal.
Be prepared for questions
No one else can see inside your head, so it’s likely whoever you tell will have some questions. Depending on how clued up they are about LGBT issues, these can be as basic as “but what does transgender mean?” to more specific inquiries about your personal relationship with a label. You’re never obligated to answer questions you feel are invasive or rude- or any at all- but it can be useful to have some answers prepared just in case.
Plan something nice for afterwards
Give yourself some space after you’ve had the conversation, no matter how it has gone. Whether you stick on some favourite music and go for a walk, or curl up in bed with a good TV show, it’s important to take some time to feel whatever you’re feeling. Cry if you need to, or have a dance party in your room! Coming out can be a draining thing even when it goes well, just because you’re opening up about something that’s important to you. Make sure you have something to eat if you’re feeling a little shaky from nerves too.
Be proud of yourself
Whether it’s a very low-key chat that is over in a few minutes, or a bigger, more intense conversation; whether the person takes it badly or really well, it’s a huge achievement to come out. Feel your feelings, whatever they are, but remember to give yourself a pat on the back. I’m proud of and impressed by the bravery of every single person who’s ever come out to be, and it’s easy to feel that for a friend, but you deserve to feel proud of yourself too.