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Coming Out

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COMING OUT TO YOURSELF

Coming out can be a difficult process for many young LGBTQ+ people. For some people, the most difficult part of the coming out process is coming out to themselves and accepting their sexuality, especially for people who grew up in an environment where LGBTQ+ people were not widely accepted. Growing up in a community like that means it can be difficult to admit to yourself that you may be attracted to people of your own gender or that you might be questioning your gender identity.

STEPS TO TAKE

✔ Write a journal

As you begin the process of self-acceptance and coming out to yourself, it can be helpful to write down your feelings.

Though it might feel childish, keeping a journal or diary to work through your feelings can be a helpful way for you to begin accepting yourself. Your first entry can be as simple as just writing “I’m gay,” “I’m bisexual,” “I’m transgender,” “I’m questioning right now, and that’s okay. I have no reason to feel guilty or ashamed.” or whatever identity you think might best describe you. Getting these words out on paper can go a long way in helping you to accept your orientation.

Once you have taken this first step, start writing how you feel about this new revelation about yourself. Some things you may want to consider:

- When did you first start thinking you might be different?

- How did it make you feel when you first learned someone else you know is LGBTQ+?

- How does writing this down make you feel about yourself?

Remember, no one else is going to read this, so you don’t need to censor yourself. You might feel silly writing down your feelings about this at first but getting it out on paper can go a long way in helping you to process your feelings and to begin to accept yourself.

✔ Find a community

Once you have begun to accept yourself and feel comfortable enough with your identity, it may be beneficial for you to meet other people like yourself. While the thought of coming out to your family and straight friends might still feel too intimidating, you might wish to connect with other people in the LGBTQ+ community.

It is important to have a support network in place, especially if you don’t think that your family or existing friends will be supportive when you do come out to them. You want to have someone to turn to if you need someone to talk to if your family and friends don’t support you the way that you had hoped. Having a support network in place will help you to feel less alone and help you to become more confident and comfortable.

✔ Buy a rainbow flag

This is something that sounds like such a cliché but it can make all the difference to how you feel. It can also make coming out super easy, just hang it up in your room and people know instantly that your not straight. There are lots of places to buy a flag such as AliExpress which has them priced under $5.

Having a flag means when you feel confident enough to attend a pride event you can bring your flag along.

✔ Say the words

Saying the words is a great step to take it allows you to take control. Much like writing out “I am gay” saying the words to yourself can be empowering. It’s such a small thing but it helps so much more than you may realise.

✔ Watch some movies & Tv shows

There are hundreds of movies and Tv shows that have LGBTQ+ characters and themes and they can be a good way to better understand the community. Just don’t take everything too seriously.

COMING OUT TO OTHERS

Coming out is a deeply personal process, and it’s important to remember that you’re in charge of your journey. Come out to your friends, family, and community on your own terms and when you feel it’s safe to do so. Even if someone is open and supportive, coming out to them can still be daunting.

Try to relax, and know that being nervous is completely normal. Hang in there! Above all, love and respect yourself, regardless of how others react to your news.

OTHERS IN THE COMMUNITY

A survey of 91 LGBTQ+ individuals was conducted throughout New Zealand to provide a rough opinion from the community on the coming out process. Below are some of the findings ranging from when people came out to what group they came out to.

One of the results that were surprising was the time it took for people to come out after realising that they were LGBTQ+. For some, it was a matter of weeks and for others, it took years for them to come out. A quarter of people came out within one year of realising they were LGBTQ+ and 77% of people came out within four years.

82% of people came out to their friends first.

82% of people came out to their friends first and only 15% came out to close family first. One of the reasons that they came out to their friends before their family was either because their friends were a part of the LGBTQ+ community and or they wanted to have support for when they come out to their family. The other 3% came out to other groups such as a minister or coworker.

77.7% of people surveyed came out before they were twenty and 44.4% came out before or during High school.

People came out because they have become comfortable with who they are.

The coming out process is something that is never the same for any one individual and the time it takes to come to terms with who you are is something that can take as little as a few weeks all the way

to the end of your life. It is a process that everyone, not just the LGBTQ+ community goes through and it is something that will change over time as one evolves.

One of the main reasons it takes some people so long to come out is that they are afraid of how others will react and the fear of losing those closest to them. The High school environment is an area where people felt they would be bullied or unaccepted and so they waited till they left and could access better, more accurate information.

The biggest reason people didn’t come out straight away was that they didn’t accept themselves because everyone is brought up to believe that they will marry the opposite sex, have two kids, a dog or cat and live in suburbia with a white picket fence. This is the “dream” that is ingrained into the mass majority and when you realise you’re never going to be able to have that it’s painful and can take so long to realise that it’s not actually your dream.

Being LGBTQ+ is something that is not taught as being something that is acceptable it is taught as something different and when you are young something different is not accepted even though it is.

People came out because they have become comfortable with who they are and keeping things internalised any longer was beginning to affect their mental health. A lot of people also said it started feeling like they were living a lie and that coming out to one person made them feel free and gave them the confidence to come out to others.

OVERALL TIPS

Come out to people who will respect your privacy.

The first people you tell should be trustworthy. When you come out to them, be sure to tell them that they shouldn’t tell anyone what you’ve confided in them.

Before coming out to someone, ask yourself if they tend to gossip. Have they ever broken your trust in the past? Do they tell you about other people’s secrets?

Write a letter, if it seems less intimidating.

If coming out to a loved one face-to-face is too intimidating, or if you’re afraid of getting tongue-tied, you could write them a letter instead. Start by letting them know that you trust them and want to share something important with them. Then

tell them about your sexual orientation or gender identity in clear, simple terms.

For example, you might start with, “I’ve wanted to tell you that I’m gay for a little while now...”

Be sure not to give your loved one the letter at school, work, or in a crowded place.

You could ask them to read it in private, or you could hand them the letter and ask them to read it in your presence. It might be easier to get the conversation started if you put everything you want to say in the letter.

Don’t let others label your sexuality or gender identity.

Adopt a label, such as “gay” or “bisexual” once you’re comfortable with it. If you’re unsure or aren’t ready to put a label on your orientation or identity, don’t let others define it for you. Keep in mind you might feel pressure to adopt a label from both straight and LGBTQ+ friends.

For example, suppose you tell your friend that you think you’re bisexual, and they say, “Well I’m sure you’re really gay, but you’re more comfortable saying ‘bi’ for now.” No one knows you better than you and, even if your friend is right, no one can force you to adopt one label or another.

An LGBTQ+ friend might tell you that you need to tell everyone in your life your specific orientation or gender label in order to be your authentic self. No one, whether they’re homophobic or LGBTQ+, has the right to dictate another person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Being gay, bi or queer is only part of your identity, just as a straight person isn’t purely defined by their sexual orientation. You don’t need to change who you are to fit anyone’s standards or stereotypes.

Get a sense of how accepting someone is before telling them.

Do your best to ensure the first person you tell is open, accepting, and supportive. Try bringing up issues with friends and family like gay marriage or transgender teen homelessness, or mention an LGBTQ+ movie or TV character.

You could say, “I saw a story on the news about same-sex marriage. What are your thoughts on it?”

Before you come out to someone, think about how accepting they are of other people. Do they have a loved one who’s openly LGBTQ+, and do they treat that loved one with love, support, and respect? Do they make offensive jokes or disparaging comments?

If you have a trusted friend who’s a member of the LGBTQ+ community, they might be the best person to tell first. They’ve been in your shoes.

TO FRIENDS

Choose a supportive friend who will help you gain confidence.

An open-minded and understanding friend can support you and help you gain the courage to move forward. If your first experience coming out to someone is positive, you might be less anxious about telling other people in the future.

You might find it easier to come out to your friends before telling your family. However, keep in mind that you’re in charge.

If you’d feel more comfortable telling your parents first, then that’s the path you should take.

Keep in mind people don’t always meet your expectations, and you can’t control anyone’s reaction. Don’t get discouraged if someone you tell doesn’t react the way you expected. Sometimes, people are shocked or upset at first, then become more accepting after they’ve had time to absorb the news.

Pick a relaxed, private place to tell them.

While there’s no ideal way to come out, a private, distraction-free time and place can make things easier. Avoid having the conversation when you or your friend are stressed, upset, or busy. That way, you’ll have an easier time expressing yourself clearly, and your friend will have a chance to process what you have to say.

For instance, you wouldn’t want to deliver the news when your friend has a basketball game in 10 minutes or is running late for work.

You don’t have to make a big deal about it. Just ask your friend to hang out, and say that there’s something you want to talk to them about.

Try to be honest and positive.

Take a breath, relax, and say, “I wanted to tell you something. I’m gay. I’m telling you because I trust you and know you’ll be there for me.” If you haven’t come out to anyone else, let your friend know that this is the first time you’ve told anyone and that you’ve chosen to tell them because you trust that they’ll be there for you.

While it’s a big moment, it’s not like your confessing to a crime or informing your friend that you have a life-threatening sickness. You’re sharing something with someone you trust. This is a good, friendship-affirming thing, so do your best to keep your tone positive.

Allow your friend to react and ask questions.

Your friend might need a moment to process what you’ve said, so be patient. Give them a few minutes to react, and let them know they should feel free to ask any questions.

Your friend might not have any questions, or they might say that they’re not surprised. Don’t worry if the conversation is a little awkward, or if they don’t know what to say. Just give your friend the time they need to take in the news.

Build a support system if you’re worried about telling your family.

Coming out to your friends can help you feel more confident about yourself. If you’re not sure how your parents will react, it’s also important to have people you trust who can lend emotional and practical support.

TO PARENTS

Try to anticipate how your parents will react.

The best-case scenario is that they will be completely accepting, that they might have already known, and that this conversation won’t cause tension. However, coming out to your parents could be risky, especially if they’ve demonstrated homophobic behaviour in the past, so be careful.

If your parents have expressed positive views of the LGBTQ+ community, have supported other people coming out, and are generally open-minded, then there’s a good chance they’ll be supportive.

Keep in mind that, while your parents may be accepting or have LGBTQ+ friends, they might still react strongly when you tell them.

Hold off on coming out if your safety would be at risk.

Unfortunately, there are some cases where you’re better off not coming out to your parents. If they’ve expressed homophobic views, and if you’re financially dependent on them, it might be in your best interest to wait to tell them until you’re independent.

Ask yourself if they might withdraw their support, stop paying your school tuition, or kick you out of the house. While keeping it to yourself might be tough, you shouldn’t come out to them if your well-being is at risk.

Inform trusted loved ones that you’re about to come out to your parents.

Whether your parents react positively or negatively, it’s helpful to know that you have friends on whom you can rely. If you’ve already come out to friends or relatives, tell them when you’re planning to come out to your parents. Your supportive loved ones will be there for you to vent to regardless of how things go with your parents.

If you decide to come out to your parents but are worried they’ll get upset, ask a supportive loved one if you can stay with them in the event things with your parents take a turn for the worst.

Chose a calm, relaxed time and place to come out to your parents.

Pick a time when you and your parents aren’t stressed, busy, or distracted. Additionally, you might have an easier time if there are no major life events happening. For instance, avoid telling them if a relative has just passed away or the night before your sister gets married.

Make sure the emotional climate at home is stable. If your parents are fighting or if you’ve just gotten grounded, you might want to wait for things to settle.

Don’t come out during a fight.

You may feel tempted to come out in an argument with your parents, but you shouldn’t use the news as a weapon.

If you tell them out of spite, you’ll make it harder for them to come to terms with your sexuality or gender identity.

Let them know you understand if they feel shocked or upset.

Even to the most accepting of parents, your news may come as a complete shock. They might be afraid that you’ll face a more difficult life, or that you won’t be able to get married and have children. Their fears may or may not be justified but, either way, try to be empathetic instead of taking it personally.

Try saying, “I get that this is a lot to take in, and you have a right to have strong feelings. But this is who I am, and I’m happy with it. 

This isn’t a bad thing, so please don’t be angry or blame yourself. This doesn’t have anything to do with you or your parenting.”

Assure them that you’re happy and healthy, and that life poses challenges for everyone, regardless of their orientation or gender identity.

Remind them that, in general, people are becoming more accepting of other lifestyles. Also, tell them that same-sex marriage is legal in New Zealand.

Give your parents time to absorb the news.

Sometimes, parents already know and are supportive right away. For other parents, accepting the news can take months or years; some, unfortunately, aren’t able to accept it. Try to be patient, and be prepared to answer any questions that they may have.

While you wait for them to process your news, make sure you feel safe.

The environment may feel a little tense and uncomfortable, but as long as you’re safe, you can remain at home.

While you give your parents time to process this information, lean on your friends. Spending more time with your support network can help you get through a rough patch with your parents.

Tell your parents that you love them and want to be honest.

Start by letting them know that you want to have an honest, loving relationship with them. Tell them that you want them to be a part of your life, and that their love and support mean a lot to you.

Take a deep breath and keep your cool. Even if you’re worried that they’ll react negatively, your parents might surprise you and thank you for being honest.
Do your best to stay positive, and tell them, “I’m gay,” or “I’m bisexual,” in simple, matter-of-fact terms.

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