Sunday, 30 September 2012

5 Steps To Coming Out

Now I know this post is probably going to turn heads simply because everyone's experiences are not exactly one in the same. Therefore I will put this disclaimer above:

Disclaimer: These steps, below mentioned, are of personal opinion. (I speak from personal experience- therefore it is advisable you take into consideration your own situation before applying these steps to your own.)

I have always maintained that coming out is an extremely personal experience, and no one should be forced to do so prior to the time they feel necessary. The issue should be addressed whenever YOU feel it need be. Having mentioned all the above, I have thought up 5 steps to help guide all those still closeted. It's important to bare in mind that these steps could take up anything from one month to 5 years...Ultimately you set the pace- and it should be one you're comfortable with.

I've said it before in My Coming Out Story : accepting yourself for who you are is pivotal. One needs to feel comfortable within their own skin before they can approach a situation like this. I believe what one should do is strip down what it means to be gay, layer by layer. Redefine the term "homosexual". Everyone is a victim to societal pressure- which has ultimately resulted in us having a preconceived idea of what it means to be homosexual. Throw that image away and reconstruct one from research and personal experience. To do so one can visit sites/blogs that display different sides of homosexuals that one is not exposed to on a regular basis. View the dynamics of a gay family on Gay Family Values or watch how openly gay athletes embrace their sexuality on the FEARLESS Project. Alternatively, one could speak to openly gay people about their experiences, exposure to successful homosexuals will allow you to realize your potential is never affected by your sexuality. Essentially you should become more comfortable with the term 'homosexual' and be able to associate/identify with it, without feeling ashamed or saddened.

This step goes hand in hand with the first. As you begin to come to terms with your sexuality it is vital you educate yourself for your own benefit as well as others'. This step is of importance because once you have come out, friends and family will turn to you with questions regarding this new information. Prepare yourself in advance by learning about homosexuality and it's relevance in your community. What does one educate themselves about? About the fundamental issues that relate to being gay, these include:
  • Your Rights. (Is it legal to identify as gay within your country/community, Can you marry, What are your rights within the working place, Are you legally allowed to adopt) All these questions should be contemplated prior to the time. 
  •  Health Issues. (Sexually Transmitted Diseases are, unfortunately, synonymous with the gay community- learn about them and prevention techniques/methods as well as possible post exposure treatments- such as P.E.P's. There are also many gay sport clubs within certain communities, as well as sites like Outsports and chat sites such as RealJock- which cater to gay men who show interests in sports and gym).  
  •  Benefits. (Contradictory to popular belief there are benefits to being openly gay. These vary from country to country. Competitions such as Mr Gay World are open to only gay contestants, also certain colleges/foundations offer bursaries and scholarships to openly gay students such as The Harvey Milk Scholarship. Apart from this, there are many businesses owned by gays that offer special prices to gay clients as well as support fellow gay owned/ gay-friendly businesses- it's a form of self sustainability) 
  • Other Aspects. Any other personal aspects that could be affected should also be researched. Perhaps it may relate to security or lifestyle changes, or even regarding relationships and sex life- which ever it may be, make sure it's not left out!
I've placed this step alone to highlight the importance of it. Ask QUESTIONS!! It's always great to speak to people who have had first hand experience, and to ask any possible questions you might have. Fortunately there are search engines which allow you to ask questions in the safety of your own home. Yahoo! Answers is a forum that allows people to post questions anonymously which can then be answered by random yet relevant people. (There are many other similar forums too). Alternatively, one could also email someone, such as myself or other bloggers/social figures, with their questions- these people needn't even be in the same country! By asking questions one can ensure more comfort and enlightenment in coming out, ultimately this an opportunity to reassure yourself about the future and what to expect.

Preparing to come out is a step neglected by many. When considering when to come out, one should consider as many aspects as possible, some of these aspects include:

  • When You Will Come Out. The date is of great importance, it is one aspect that could aid you in coming out. Remember: The day should be of slight importance to you and preferably not important to the family/people you are telling (I.e - Not Mom or Dad's birthday or a religious holiday if your family is religious). A neutral day is probably most suitable. NOTE: You MUST feel comfortable with the date, it should be done when you are READY!
  • Where You Will Come Out. Another aspect that you can play to your advantage is where you choose to tell your family/friends. By deciding on a place prior to the event, you are ultimately contemplating a place for everyone to digest the information you will be telling them. It's probably best to tell people in a more intimate environment if it's the first time. Remember: Social/Busy environments make it difficult for people to genuinely react, it also makes a situation more stressful, however for some these situations might be significantly better. You decide which is best because you know them best. 
  • How You Will Come Out. Probably the most contemplated aspect of Coming Out is How it'll be done. Practice what you will say before hand, to best prepare yourself. Remember: You want to come across sincere yet certain. Ultimately, you want to express that this is not a decision, but simply you pursuing a more authentic life, a life of fulfillment. You also want to reassure your family/friends that your intentions are not to break away, but to allow them a greater understanding of yourself. NOTE: You should expect the worst reactions, but hope for the best. This is a personal issue, do not deviate from the point: You are gay, and you want them to know this because they are of importance to you. It's advisable to let them know that you are here for any possible questions that may arise and that you want to help rather than rebel. Keep it as serious as possible and reassert your sureness, NEVER APOLOGIZE FOR BEING GAY!  
  • The Small Details. You want to be as prepared as possible for this day so don't overlook the small things. This is usually an emotional situation, one in-which you want to feel as comfortable as possible, so slip on your most comfortable clothes and favorite pair of shoes. Perhaps you could cook a meal, to reassure your commitment to the family. People are usually more susceptible when you've taken them into consideration, so you're more likely to have them respond positively if you've shown effort. Remember: The atmosphere plays on people's emotions too- make the atmosphere as comfortable as possible for both yourself and the recipients. 
  • THE BACKUP PLAN. Now you've prepared for the worst. In the case that your family/friends do not respond well- you want a plan to retire to. This could be a place to stay should your parents want you out the house or it could be a fellow LGBT member who has agreed to help you out. Remember: You have to take into consideration what you parents reaction could be, ESPECIALLY if you're solely dependent on them financially. Your backup plan doesn't necessarily have to be permanent, it just has to be reliable. 
As appealing as it may sound, in many instances it backfires. People may suggest that your boyfriend/girlfriend has influenced you into being gay (as pathetic and impossible as that sounds), they also may shift the blame/hate/anger onto him/her. Therefore, I would suggest you rather tell them without having your boyfriend/girlfriend present, this doesn't mean they cannot be around to console, comfort and reassure you at a later stage.

The last step of the process, and usually the toughest. Basically you have prepared to the fullest for this, provided you've followed the above steps and that you are certain this is the right time. Remember: There is only so much you can prepare for the unexpected. Coming Out is a turn out of events, a turn out that cannot be precisely predicted. (Hence why one would prepare for the worst). When those words are uttered, the world doesn't change, life doesn't become eccentric and other gay people don't come running in to kiss you- this is simply because sexuality does not define you, nor does it change the world. You may feel relieved or angry, just bare in mind that the emotions are temporary, and as time passes you will become happier with your decision. This is a personal experience that you are sharing with your loved ones, that does not mean they should prevent you from living your life. NOTE: That does not mean rush into things- that will only result in regret. Take things at your own pace, and remember IT GETS BETTER!!

Lastly, I have a brief summary of things you shouldn't do when coming out:
5 things not to do when coming out:
  • NEVER OUT SOMEONE ELSE. Regardless whether you've had the opportunity to come to terms or not, you should never "out" someone else without their consent. Coming Out should be kept personal, so there's no need to mention other closeted gay people. 
  • Do not belittle other gays, such as stereotypes, when you've come out. By saying you're not like other gays you are simply distracting/deviating from the issue at hand, and it's counterproductive if it's acceptance you seek. Besides, you may even befriend those exact stereotypes later in life (gay men can be so funny!). So be accepting!
  • Don't give GAY a negative connotation! When you've just come out you should rather expose your family/friends to the positive aspects as opposed to the negative aspects. You don't want them to associate GAY with being shameful. I'm not implying you should exclude them from the reality of being homosexual- I'm implying you should rather tell them which doors have opened rather than which have closed (because few have closed and more have opened). 
  • Don't expect everyone to accept it from the get-go. It will take time for people to come to terms with this. It has taken time for you to accept this- so allow them time and space to do the same. Also DO NOT give up hope, the most homophobic of people have changed in history. 
  • As mentioned above, NEVER APOLOGIZE FOR BEING GAY. This is not a decision, nor is it something to be ashamed or apologetic for, be proud of it!

Final Thought:
Read about others coming out stories, educate yourself and open yourself up to a more accepting society. Remember, if it's acceptance you seek, you have to learn to accept first. Being gay is a small game changer, your on a different team but the fields are the same, and so are the rules. Just remember- this is about you, and you set the pace. Nothing should prevent you from living your life genuinely. Being gay doesn't define who you are- but it definitely makes you a stronger person. Now go out there and live your life the way your heart always intended to!


(All links have been provided within the passage)

1 comment:

  1. If you have any extra steps, more advice or any points you'd change- please leave a comment for everyone to see! This is to help anyone who needs it- so everyones opinion helps!!