Coming Out Day – To Whom And How?
Today, October 11th, marks the 31st Anniversary of National Coming Out Day. How amazing is it to say that in our lifetime? The LGBTQ community has overcome heaps of obstacles, and even though there are more to go, I’m happy to witness and participate in this progress as an ally.
While coming out is an experience I’ve never had to go through, listening to the stories of others has reiterated my same mantra of staying authentic. Even though there are so many people who have gone through this experience, there are still times when we feel alone and isolated. It’s scary and vulnerable, but living openly is a reward that can greatly outweigh any fear. When it comes down to it, only you know what’s best for you.
Your sexuality is a private matter that you can choose to share if it makes your life better. We can fantasize all we want about how coming out should look like, but the truth is that things don’t always go as planned, so you need to be prepared for whatever life throws your way.
Coming out to yourself
Yes, sexuality is super freaking confusing, and the forms of modern love are ever-increasing. A great way to start the road to discovering your identity is by writing down your feelings. It sounds juvenile, but recording your thoughts is a good way to force yourself into much needed introspection. And that goes for anything in life. Getting these words on paper is the first step to self-acceptance. Another step to self-discovery is seeking advice from a LGBTQ support community. A quick internet search will provide you with an overwhelming number of support groups, like The Tribe, The LGBTQ Center, and Rainbow Alley for youth. It’s unlikely you won’t find one you’re comfortable with. Remember, although these people have had very different lives than you, they have shared this same bravery of coming out and have legitimate advice.
Coming out to your friends & family
The fear of how others will react is what stops most people from coming out. When you do come out, remind your friends and family that this was confusing for you too, but it is who you are and it’s okay if they need time to process things. It’s important for you to be sensitive to their feelings if you expect the same. Consider this more of a process than a single defining moment. Up until this point, your inner circle may think they know everything about you. Trust your gut when it comes to how you will convey this message. If your parents are historically unaccepting, devise a backup plan in case things don’t go as planned, whether that be a place to stay or financial means.
Coming out at your workplace
According to a report by the Human Rights Campaign, 50% of LGBTQ have yet to come out at their workplace. While to someone living in a very liberal part of town might find this number pretty surprising, we have to take all those living in non-urban areas into consideration. This becomes detrimental like anyone keeping a “secret” because it requires energy to maintain that secret. Which is energy that the employer expects to be invested into roles and responsibilities. While it’s also no secret that discrimination of all types occurs in the workplace, it is nice to see that employers are finally focusing on building a diverse workforce to cultivate creative solutions and increase overall productivity. Remember, it is totally illegal in the workplace to discriminate against someone based on sexual orientation, so the law is on your side. If you feel comfortable disclosing this with HR, this could be a smart move to coming out at work. If not, start with coworkers you trust.
It’s hard to imagine a world without the inclusion of LGBTQ, but we have to keep in mind that some people simply don’t know anyone that is part of this community. This is an opportunity to dispel any falsehoods they may have and also reiterate unacceptable behavior that leads to physical and mental abuse.
If you are coming out this Coming Out Day, just know that we are SO proud of you. And if now isn’t the right time, we are still so proud of you for being true to yourself.
Donna is a Volonté contributor and freelancer who lives in San Francisco with her understanding husband and not-so-understanding teenage sons. Her work has been published in The Journal of Sexology and she is currently writing a book on love languages.