Coming out as LGBTQ to family or friends may seem daunting
What will their reaction be? Will I be accepted for who I am? Will they be disappointed? How will I respond to their reactions? These are very valid before coming out. You may not know the answer if you don’t make that terrifying move. Yet, the rewards of being open and honest with who you are can mean a world of difference. And, in my experience as a counselor for LGBTQ clients of all ages, it usually goes better than expected. Here are some tips to make this experience the most successful.
Coming Out Tip #1: Make a Plan
The Human Rights Campaign recommends making a plan to weigh your options and make the process as smooth as possible. Some suggested questions include:
- What will you say to your family or friends?
- Do you have a support system in case things go south?
- Is this the right time to come out?
- What kind of signals are you getting from family members or friends about LGBTQ people?
- Can you be patient? It can take some time for some people to come to terms with your coming out.
- How well informed are you regarding LGBTQ issues? (See tip #3)
Coming Out Tip #2: Be in a Good Place to Come Out
When deciding to come out, it’s good to be in a good place both personally and financially. If you are still reliant on your family for financial support or housing and you think they will have a drastic response, it might be better to wait, or plan for it. Also, it isn’t the best idea to come out when you are also dealing with another difficult experience such as a breakup or a loss that already has you on edge.
Coming Out Tip #3: Be Prepared to Answer Questions
Your family or friends will have questions for you, which is why the Human Rights Campaign says to be read up on LGBTQ issues. Being able to answer their questions will not only put them at ease, but show that you have a handle on the situation and know what you are doing.
Coming Out Tip #4: Be Ready for the Worst
Be prepared for the negative responses. Many people regret their first responses when someone came out to them. Remember that you are only seeing their first reaction. Things can only get better from there, right? So, expect the best, but be ready for the worst. People’s first reactions may be rooted in:
With time, these initial feelings often fade away. Your parents, for example, may respond negatively because they blame themselves for not having known sooner. They may also be worried about your safety (a very common fear in parents). Give them space to react, and try to stay calm. However, if you are concerned about your loved ones reacting violently to your coming out, it might be best to do it in a safe place, or wait for a better time.
Coming Out Tip #5: Establish the Right Setting
Talk to your family or friends in a place that is quiet, free of distractions, and private. In his Huffington Post article, Randy Neece suggests not coming out right before a significant family event, such as Thanksgiving Dinner. You want the setting to reinforce that, right now, the most important thing is what you are discussing. It should not be a distraction from another event going on for the family.
Coming Out Tip #6: Have Resources Available
If your loved ones have additional questions, make sure to have resources available for them to review. The Human Rights Campaign has resources available at their website for non-LGBTQ people. Check them out and save some links. Resources also shield you from having to answer so many questions yourself. If the person is genuinely interested, they will visit the website and educate themselves.
Coming Out Tip #7: Ask for Help
Deciding when, where, and how to come out is something that each individual can judge best. However, you do not have to do this alone. Consulting with a therapist who is experienced in LGBTQ issues can be helpful for bouncing off ideas, discussing emotions, and providing support for you and your family.
Coming out is a very personal act, but it is one that can benefit you enormously. Though seemingly daunting, coming out can be made easier with proper planning and knowing your audience. In my work with LGBTQ clients I notice that personal fears and anxiety often clouds a person’s view.
A friend or a counselor, especially someone who has gone through this before (for themselves or others) can give you perspective and help you gather the courage you need. Recognizing that you are able to be open about who you are not only instills self-confidence, it can also be an inspiration for others as well.
If you would like to talk to someone about your -or someone else’s- coming-out, please contact us 804-665-4681. Our counselors can guide you in this process. You can also sign up online and we will call you to set up an appointment. We hope to hear from you!