What Should I Do Before Coming Out?
The coming out process is different for each person. Before an individual decides to come out, it can be helpful to evaluate his or her own personal situation and needs. Allies can assist friends who are LGBTQ by helping them consider these issues in their process of deciding whether or not to come out. Some things to think about:
- Are you comfortable with your sexual identity? If you're wrestling with guilt or depression, get help in getting over that before coming out. Coming out can require a lot of energy and a reserve of positive self-image. If you are comfortable with your identity when you come out others will often sense that, and may have an easier time accepting your disclosure.
- Is this your decision? Remember that the decision to come out is yours. Only you can decide when, where, how, and to whom you come out. Don't be guilt tripped or pressured into it before you're ready. Coming out decisions must be made carefully, and only you can weigh the potential benefits and the potential consequences.
- Coming out is an on-going process, not a single event. All LGBTQ people have to make decisions about when and to whom they come out almost every day. Remember, you have the right to ask anyone to whom you come out not to share your disclosure with others. You may want to role-play and practice before you tell someone. Although coming out gets a little easier each time you do it, it's important that your words and thoughts be well chosen. Whenever you come out, reflect upon the experience and learn from it, because there will always be a next time.
- Have you thought about how you will respond to negative reactions? Be prepared that your revelation may surprise, anger, or upset others at first. Try not to react angrily or defensively. Try to let others be honest about their initial feelings, even if they are negative. Remember that the initial reaction may not last. Keep the lines of communication open with people to whom you come out. Respond to their questions and remember that they are probably in the process of re-examining the myths and stereotypes to which we all have been exposed. If you are rejected by someone, 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.
- Do you have support? If your disclosure results in a negative reaction, there should be an individual or a group that you can turn to for emotional support and strength. Maintaining your sense of self-worth is critical.
- Is this a good time? Timing can be very important. Be aware of the mood, priorities, stresses, and problems of those with whom you would like to share your identity. Choose a time when they're not dealing with major life concerns as this may affect their receptivity to your news.
- What's your motive for coming out now? Hopefully, it is because you care about the people you intend to come out to, and you are uncomfortable with the distance you feel between you and them. Never come out in anger or during an argument, using your disclosure as a weapon. Have you tried to anticipate others' reactions? Consider your general relationship with those to whom you intend to come out. What might their concerns be? How can you address those concerns? What message do you want to send? For example, try to affirm mutual caring and love before disclosing your news. Emphasize that you are still the same person.
- Are you well informed about LGBTQ issues? If you've done some serious reading on the subject, you'll be better prepared to address concerns and questions with reliable and accurate information.
**Adapted from "Coming Out to Your Parents" published by Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays and from "About Coming Out" published by the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force.