June is Pride Month. It’s a time of remembrance, community, and celebration for the LGBTQ community. Often, it’s a time where people are inspired by the parades and rainbows to finally muster up the courage to come out as part of the LGBTQ community. While I could never really speak to every feeling and every situation that involves coming out, I wanted to pass along some general thoughts and tips on coming out that can help you or someone else on that journey:
Things to Say and Do If Someone Comes Out to You
- Listen and be supportive: This might seem like a no brainer. Well, of course I will listen and be supportive. Honestly though, this may be a tough conversation for the person coming out. They have probably rehearsed it in their head several times. Let them say their piece, even if you feel like you already knew what’s up. If you start with, “Oh I already knew that…” in the first five minutes, you are taking away from the journey. Coming out is a way of revealing their true nature, so allow them to be themselves for the first time to you.
- Affirm their identity ASAP: If the new identity comes with a pronoun shift, start using it as quickly as you can. You may mess up now and again, but that’s okay. If you apologize and promise to try harder, the person will probably forgive you. However, keep trying to make the switch. Don’t say something like, “Oh well, you’ll always be a ‘he’ to me!” or “This seems hard to remember!” Just like you wouldn’t want to screw up a person’s name the 20th time you met someone, you want to work on getting the pronouns correct.
- Coming out is a journey: There’s this big misnomer that coming out is the final step. It’s actually the first step in a journey of self-acceptance. This person may come out to you again as something different. Or their journey to self-acceptance might hit a few snags or go to some dark corners. Try to be as supportive as possible.
Things to Say and Do When You Come Out
- Tell the easy people first: You probably have at least one person in your life you know will love you unconditionally no matter what: your best friend, your mom, a supportive teacher or boss. Telling them first will help you come up with things to say to the more difficult people in your life.
- You don’t have to come out to everybody: If I was the kind of blogger who used emojis a lot, I would probably add the clapping emojis to this statement. There’s this idea that when you come out, you go on this great coming out tour when you tell everyone: your friends, your job, your Great-Aunt Roberta who you haven’t seen in ten years, and the chips will fall as they may. Some people do and if you feel comfortable doing that, then do it. However, never feel obligated to do it that way. Come out to the people you feel safe knowing this about you. If you don’t feel good about people knowing at your job, don’t do it. If you think your 99 year-old grandmother won’t understand what nonbinary is and may say something very hurtful, don’t do it. Being you is important, but you’re also in a vulnerable place at the moment. Don’t pile on if it will do more harm than good.
- Don’t overshare on social media: This is probably good advice regardless. Don’t feel the need to post every passing thought, especially if you’re still working out what your identity means for your life. Feel free to filter your posts, put your accounts on private, or even block or delete people not being supportive. Everyone doesn’t need to know everything.
- Coming out is a journey: Yes, I realize this was already pointed out, but it bears repeating: Coming out isn’t the last step; it’s the first step. Don’t plan on having everything figured out. You need to grow into your identity. You were probably raised by cishet people, and you probably have some cishet biases. Listen when someone from your community questions some of your long held beliefs. Consider views different from yours. You’re changing and growing in ways many people don’t get to experience, so honor that they may come with shedding beliefs that no longer serve you.
- Find your people: In an ideal world, your experience coming out would be full of love and acceptance. Hopefully, for the most part it will be. However, it helps to shore up some extra support and find people like yourself. They are probably also having or have had experiences similar to yours. As much as your liberal straight friend says they understand and will take you to the gay bar, it may be hard to grasp the anxiety of trying to chat up a cute boy for the first time at 23. Also, don’t feel like you only have to go to bars or clubs to be in queer spaces. The internet is a prime space for finding queer meet-ups, coffee shops, churches, or whatever else you need. Also, try to seek out some queer media: movies, documentaries, and books will help you shape who you are. Knowing your place in history may also help you feel connected to a movement and a community that has been going for centuries.
Remember, always be proud of who you are. You are you and no can take that away from you. Happy Pride Month!