Coming Out To Yourself, Your Family & Friends: A Self-Acceptance Experience
The most stressful moment in a gay person’s life is probably its coming out. To himself first, then to other people around him. But once it’s done, it is also most likely the most enjoyable moment in its life until he gets married (if he does). Here is a little questions-answers to those who struggle to take the plunge.
What Is Coming Out?
Coming out has a double meaning. It first describes our own experience of self-discovery, self-acceptance and openness and honesty about our own identity, and also our decision to share and disclose it with other people in our lives, when and how we chose to do so.
Who Shall I Come Out To?
Well, first, to yourself. It is important that you feel honest and sincere to yourself when thinking about your identity. If you have any doubts or non-answered questions, better is to talk to third-party people that know about being gay, like other same-sex couples or hotlines or support groups. They will help clarifying what you feel and who you are really.
Then, to whoever you feel like. Some gay people can be out to a few people in their lives, other to everybody around them, still others somewhere in-between. Most happen to tell a friend before family, many again have rather speaking to a professional first, like in a support group or to a helpline. It is true that having someone to talk to and getting emotional support can highly help to deal with the situation.
Note that while coming out can be a very challenging time, most gay people who have done so relate how positive and supportive was the response from family and friends. Most of them say they feel happy they made the decision as they feel a weight is lifted off their shoulders after they come out. They feel mainly relieved.
Is It Hard To Come Out?
Well, it really depends on the circumstances. People come out at different ages and in different ways. What you have to keep in mind is that the stress and worry you feel when thinking about coming out will probably project on the people you will be out to.
It is common indeed to experience feelings of anxiety especially when thinking about how people might react when you tell them. So just see this stage as a chance to create unity with these people. Tell them how you needed help to come out to yourself first, cheer them up by joking on the fact that you had too much stress and worry and that it is their turn to feel so, advise them to come to a support group with you, or without you if they would rather not be surrounded by gay people at first, give them family support addresses and helpline numbers…
And, above all, remind them that love is love, whatever type it is, and that even if you love men, you still love them first.
What Are The Different Stages Of Coming Out?
We usually distinguish three different stages in the process of coming out:
- Discovery: when you start to question yourself if you might be sexually different because of feelings or sensations you’re having.
- Acceptance: when you start to accept your way of love. You can tell you reached this step when you start to feel ready to tell a first person that you’re gay.
- Integration: when you start to get comfortable telling people around you what your sexual status is and when you begin living your life accordingly, like getting into same-sex relationships or showing public affection or going to Prides openly.
But keep in mind that everyone’s experience of discovering their self-identity is different, as are their stages of coming out.
What If My Coming Out Goes Wrong?
Well, first, remember that you needed some time to accept yourself as you are. You can’t expect your family and friends to do better than you towards accepting your identity. It may be even more difficult for them. If you fear their reaction, try to write them a letter, it will leave them the time to come down from their emotions before you speak again about it face-to-face.
Then, even if you face really close-minded people, know that your coming out can not go wrong, as you do it first and above all for yourself. If you don’t speak out, the stress and worry will be yours and only yours. As when you share it, you also share your stress about it. Don’t be mistaken, you are not bringing extra stress to your family and friends, but natural stress of everyday life.
Every person has daily stress, every couple share worry, every family face challenges. Do not try to spare them your burden as you will actually deprive them of a natural life experience. If they do not take it well, it will then become their problem and you will now be in a position where it is you that can help them.
That is why your coming out cannot go wrong: first, you will feel relieved, second, you will be able to help your family and friends to take the news positively, and helping other people will help you to feel better with yourself and strengthen your feeling of self-confidence and self-esteem.
So don’t hesitate, get professional help if needed, find the support you need, open yourself to yourself and to others. It can not go wrong!