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Issues & Advice
Coming Out
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Coming Out

Some suggestions for coming out to parents, relatives, and non-gay friends

When you do begin to come out to non-gay people, your experiences will probably vary. Sometimes it will go well. Occasionally a relationship will be terminated abruptly or will fade away unexpectedly. From the experiences of many lesbians and gay men, their parents, and friends, we offer a number of suggestions about coming out to non-gay people. You need to evaluate these suggestions in the light of your own personal situations and needs.

  1. Be clear about your own feelings about being gay. If you are still dealing with a lot of guilt or depression, try to get some help in getting over that before coming out to parents or other non-gay people. If you are comfortable with your gayness, those to whom you come out will often sense that fact and be aided in their own renewed acceptance of you.
  2. Timing can be very important in coming out. Be aware of the health, mood, priorities, and problems of those with whom you would like to share your sexuality. The mid-life crises of parents, the relationship problems of friends, the business concerns of employers, and countless other factors over which you have no control can affect another's receptivity to your revelation.
  3. Never come out during an argument. Never use coming out as a weapon. Never encourage a parent to feel guilty for having caused your sexual orientation -- he or she didn't!
  4. When coming out to parents or family try to affirm mutual caring and love before launching into your announcement about your gayness.
  5. Be prepared that your revelation may surprise, anger, or upset other people at first. Try not to react angrily or defensively. Try to let other people be honest about their initial feelings even if they are negative. Remember that the initial reaction may not be the long term one. Ultimately the individual who has really faced and dealt with his or her homophobia may be far more supportive than the person who gives a superficial-liberal expression of support.
  6. Emphasize that you are still the same person. You were gay yesterday and will be tomorrow. If you were loving and responsible yesterday, likewise you will be loving and responsible tomorrow.
  7. Keep lines of communication open with people after you come out to them -- even if their response is negative. Respond to their questions and remember that they are probably in the process of reexamining the myths and stereotypes about gay people which we have received from our culture.
  8. Be sure that you are well informed about homosexuality. Read some good books about the subject and share them with individuals to whom you have come out. Goering's Book Center, Iris Books, Mediaplay, Barnes & Noble, and Books-a-Million has a number of very good book in stock.
  9. Encourage your parents or others to whom you come out to meet some of your lesbian and gay friends.
  10. Remember that it took many of us gay men and lesbians a very long time to come to terms with our own sexuality and even longer to decide to share the fact with others. When you come out to non-gay people, be prepared to give them time to adjust and to comprehend the new information about you. Don't expect or demand immediate acceptance. Look for on-going, caring dialogue.
  11. If you are rejected by someone to whom you have come out, do not lose sight of your own self-worth. Remember that your coming out was a gift of sharing an important part of yourself which that person has chosen to reject. If rejection does come, consider whether the relationship was really worthwhile. Is any relationship so important that it must be carried on in an atmosphere of dishonesty and hiding? Was the person really your friend or simply the friend of someone he or she imagined you to be? Remember also that the loss of a friend is not the end of the world. Coming out decisions must be made cautiously, but integrity and self- respect are extremely important in the long run.
  12. Remember that the decision to come out is yours. Don't be guilt tripped into it by people who think that everyone must come out or by snooping people who ask inappropriate questions. You can usually decide when, where, how, and to whom you wish to come out. At this stage in our society, full public declarations about one's sexuality are not necessarily the best decision for most people.
  13. Try not to let your family and close friends find out about your gayness from third parties such as neighbors or the media. Try to tell them personally beforehand.
  14. Whenever you come out, reflect upon the experience and learn from it.
  15. Never let yourself be pressured into coming out before you are ready. Not by these messages. Not by anyone.
  16. Coming out is one of the most difficult things we do in our lives. It won't always go well, but it can be a very freeing experience most of the time.
Related Links
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