Guest Author - Claudia Cuellar
“Coming out of the closet” is a term many of you are already familiar with. It refers to revealing your true self to others and most importantly, coming to accept and love all of you.
Coming out is not only about orientation since it can at many times be about someone’s gender identity. Orientation, gender or both, it is one of the most significant steps a person can take toward becoming a happy individual.
Whether we intend to or not, coming out is by far one of the most important political acts we can commit. By accepting our identities and orientation, we slowly change our immediate community and on a larger scale; we change our society.
Every person who comes out of the closet allows the LGBT community to become that much more visible. They contribute to a movement with their presence and make it more comfortable and safer for other LGBT people in their community.
Have you come out of the closet? Do you know someone who has? Perhaps, you have been considering coming out but are like many, afraid to go through with it. If this is you, you are not alone. There are hundreds of LGBT individuals with the same dilemma as you, all around the globe.
Where do I begin?
If you are thinking coming out it can be helpful to understand what you are going through or may go through in the future.
First, you have to understand that your emotions are completely natural. It is normal to feel fear, nervousness, anticipation, excitement and any combination of emotions when thinking of coming out. Most LGBT folks have many different feelings throughout the process of coming out. It may help to speak to anyone you know who has come out, watch or read any of the resources included at the end of this article or speak to a counselor/therapist.
Since coming out is a gradual process that can for many take years, don’t put yourself in a pressured timeline. Know that the time will be right when you have gone through many of the beginning emotions, fears and levels of acceptance.
Accepting yourself or, “coming out to yourself” is the crucial first step before continuing on to fully coming out. Once you have come to understand, accept and love yourself in your own individual entirety, many of the walls that had once been up will slowly deteriorate. You will find that it may become much easier to speak to others about your orientation and/or identity.
Seeking queer community is a strong second step for many LGBT people. Having friends who are LGBT and LGBT allies is vital to feeling comfortable and safe. Peer support is needed by all LGBT folks, especially when you are planning on coming out.
Locating an LGBT community center is a great way to connect with LGBT people who you can develop strong friendships with. If one is not near you, contacting an LGBT helpline like one found in the resources below can be a great alternative. The internet is also full of online forums and helpful resources for LGBT people.
How can I come out?
There are several ways people come out to friends and family. Many LGBT folks come out to different people at different times and some come out to both friends and family at the same time. Come out only to those you feel safe coming out to. You are never obligated to come out to anyone you feel unsafe telling. What you do, is dependent on your comfort level.
There are many creative ways to come out to friends and family, including talking face to face over dinner or after a relaxing day, writing a letter, writing an e-mail or some have even started a conversation through text message!
You may want to come out to friends or family first. Maybe you want to gather everyone together at the same time or talk to people one by one. If you have a strong support system or are comfortable in your own self acceptance, it will be easier to handle any reactions you may get when you come out.
Remember, coming out may not be easy when you do it but the rewards of living your life as who you truly are is worth it.
GLBT National Hotline (adult & youth) : http://www.glnh.org
Coming Out Stories/Videos : http://www.comingoutstories.org
LOGO’s Coming Out Video Series: