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How to Come Out – Lessons and Testimonials From People Who Came Out

  • Oct.10.2021
  • 7min
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advice for coming out

Happy National Coming Out Day! For many folks all over the world, it can be difficult to figure out how to come out to family, friends, loved ones, and strangers. “Coming out” is referring to when people say come out of the closet meaning telling those around you about your sexual orientation, gender, or maybe both. Initially, it just meant coming out as gay, but the term is now used in reference to any and all identities, sexualities, and experiences that are not heterosexual and or cisgender.

How to Come Out

why should i come out

Coming out can be casual or it can be intense and profound. Not everyone has a happy experience with coming out, but for others, it can be a joyful celebration. It can happen multiple times in a person’s life in different stages or circumstances. Sometimes a person might want to come out to their family and then their peers, or their friends but not yet their parents.

Each individual will have a different experience coming out, and what you come out with can also change as you get older and have more experiences getting to know yourself. Some people come out as gay and then realize they’re actually pansexual later in life, while others may come out as non-binary and then navigate closer to gender fluidity. No matter what, being true to yourself and what you know about your identity is something that only you can decide. You are always allowed to change your mind and come out differently from the way you came out once before. If you prefer not to come out or to label yourself as a certain part of the LGBTQ+ community, that is your own truth and no one can tell you that it’s not.

Depending on the area that you grew up in, the views and values of your family members and friends, and the situation at your place of work, coming out of the closet can come with varying levels of stress and difficulty. Some people prefer not to come out for fear of violence or difficulty with those they have to interact with regularly.

This is part of the reason that coming out is so essential in the minds of many LQBTQ+ activists. While it is ultimately your choice whether to come out to only a few people or to make it publicly known, those who came out at a time when it was dangerous to reveal any sexual orientation other than wasn’t heterosexual, or any gender identity that wasn’t cisgender, was a potentially dangerous step towards progress. For more information about how to come out, national coming out day, safety information, and tips about finding the right words, take a look at this article on advice for coming out.

Why Is It so Hard to Come Out of the Closet

out and proud

It is still illegal to be gay in many countries all over the world, and while transgender and gender non-conforming identities may be gaining more public attention these days, the social push towards inclusivity and acceptance for those who aren’t cisgender has been relatively recent in Europe and the West. Many people still have to face potential danger and even death simply by existing as their true selves. In New York alone, 44 trans people were killed as a result of hate crimes in the year 2020.

If you take intersections of race, gender, and sexuality into consideration, there are still very real reasons that people find it difficult to come out. After reading about the potential dangers people face, the question you might be wondering is why should I come out at all? Well, there are many reasons that coming out can benefit your life greatly, and potentially help others who wish to come out but fear retribution or violence. For a person who is gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, demisexual or any other sexual orientation that isn’t heterosexuality, it is a lot easier to choose when you want others to know about it, and when you might not find it to be important to share. This is because sexuality isn’t something that is inherently visible, audible, or easy to confirm without intimate knowledge of someone. While it is possible, beautiful, and frequent that you may see someone wearing a pride flag or kissing their same-sex partner on the street, these things don’t explicitly tell you a person’s sexuality.

For example, the person wearing a pride flag might be an ally, and the person kissing a same-sex partner might be bisexual. Regardless of your expectations and assumptions, you can’t be 100% sure of someone’s sexuality unless they tell you about it and many people can “pass” for something that they’re not.

While some transgender people are “passing” meaning that they are typically assumed to be the gender they express, not all trans people are able to do so, and not all trans people want to either.

Passing, having surgery, or even resembling a person of your gender doesn’t make you any more or less trans. It is up to you to decide how much you want to transition, whether that be medically, hormonally, surgically, or through the use of clothing. Transitioning in any of these ways is simply an affirmation of your gender, not a way to change your gender from one thing to another. People who haven’t yet transitioned in a physical way might feel the need to come out to those around them before they do so, but if you’re meeting a stranger for the first time as a trans person, specifically a trans person who just beginning to transition, you might find yourself having to come out again and again.

Some who have a harder time passing as their gender might find that there is no need to come out because merely existing means outing themselves. The concept of voluntarily coming out, even when it might be easier for you not to, is meant to aid in helping to give visibility to and educate about the LGBTQ+ community, especially for those who aren’t lucky enough to feel safe about coming out or being out. Those who make the choice to come out despite the difficulty it brings can help make the world a more inclusive space.

Some people choose to come out for those who don’t have the choice, and for those who struggled, faced hardships, threats of violence, or loss of community for coming out. Coming out is also something that can help people feel free, unburdened by secrecy, able to connect fully with others, and achieve an unbridled sense of self.

When Is a Good Time to Come Out?

It can be hard to know what to say when coming out, or how to know when to come out. It is important not to feel rushed or pressured to come out of the closet. If you’re still questioning your sexuality, gender expression, or personal identity, there is no need to rush into coming out too early. You might find that with a little bit of exploration you can find a deeper understanding of who you are. If you don’t like the labels, there is no need to rush into them, or to ever use them at all. Some people find labels too limiting, or don’t feel that a single label really encompasses everything that they feel about their identity. Others find labels comforting, and use them to find community in others like themselves.

Your decisions about the labels you choose or eschew can change over time, and the decision is always up to you and not anyone else. By doing research about gender and sexuality without labeling yourself too quickly, or making judgments about any of the research you do, you can eventually start to feel more solid in your understanding of who you are.

Once you’ve explored, researched, and reflected on your own gender and sexuality, you might feel that you can establish a label for it or at least a personal understanding of what makes you you. For those who are struggling to find the right time to come out, National Coming Out Day might feel like the perfect occasion. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea to come out to a lot of people at once, but for others, it can feel liberating. However you come out, whether it to be a few trusted loved ones or a complete stranger at a bar, know that it’s your choice!

What Is National Coming Out Day?

national coming out day

National Coming Out Day is a holiday that celebrates and inspires many people to choose a united time to come out of the closet or to reflect on the time that they came out in a celebratory manner. If you’re already out, it can be a day spent reflecting on the bravery it took to come out of the closet and to live each day as the unique and important individual that you are.

For those who have yet to come out who really want to, national coming out day can feel like a safe time to do so. When many people in your social circle are posting about the time that they came out or coming out themselves, it can feel less daunting to share in the celebration and to come out yourself.

When is National Coming Out Day?

happy national coming out day

The National coming out day is October 11th. The history of national coming out day surrounds an LGBTQ+ equality march that happened on October 11th in 1987. The idea of a national day for coming out was proposed by activists Rob Eichberg and Jean O’Leary. The point of coming out for them was making it clear that most people have a loved one, a friend, or a family member who is part of the LGBTQ+ community. Through personal knowledge and association with people of different genders and sexualities, people who may have been inclined to be prejudicial might find it more difficult to do so.

There is strength in numbers, and clearly, the fact that so many people in the United States and around the globe feel confident in coming out shows that the work is paying off and that while there may still be somewhere to go, looking at the progress that has been made through the sheer dedication and will power of strong activists who figured out how to come out in numbers is inspiring.

Fun Ways to Come Out

If you’re not quite sold on traditional and serious ways to come out, there is no rule in the book of life that says that good ways to come out can’t include a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor. The best ways to come out could very well involve making the people around you laugh. Some creative ways to come out could be writing it on a cake, singing “I’m Coming Out” to your family members, wearing a shirt that says “I’m Gay,” mail a formal notice in fancy cursive writing, or throwing a gender reveal party for yourself. There are so many different ways to come out, so if none of these coming-out ideas feel authentic or genuine to you, one of the best coming out of the closet tips is to do it in whatever way feels right to you. You might not feel comfortable telling most people in your life, and in truth, you don’t have to. Some solid advice I have heard is that no matter what, it is important to tell at least one person about your identity, lest we all suffer in secrecy about something that could be celebrated.

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