5 expert tips on coming out as LGBT+ to make your experience happier, safer and satisfying
Coming out can be a tricky business at the best of times. But for many, living through an unprecedented pandemic has made it that much harder.
A new poll of LGBT+ youth found that COVID-19 is making living situations much more stressful, as it limits people’s ability to be themselves and contact their support systems.
More than 40 per cent say that the pandemic has impacted their ability to express their LGBT+ identity, and in trans and non-binary youth that figure is as high as 56 per cent.
That’s why the Trevor Project has released some helpful guidance ahead of National Coming Out Day, a day to support and empower LGBT+ people as they come out of the closet.
If you’re planning on coming out soon, or you know someone who is, here are some of the Trevor Project’s tips and tricks to make it easier. Remember: there’s no right or wrong way to come out, it’s completely up to you!
1. Planning ahead.
You might decide to take some time to prepare what you want to say before you say it, and practicing with supportive people can be helpful.
Ask yourself, “How do I want to come out to them? What would I say to someone I want to come out to? What would I expect them to say? Is there a way I would want to prepare prior to coming out?”
It can be important to think about the range of reactions people may have, including the good ones and the bad ones. Consider what the best and worst case scenarios might be, based on what you know of the person you’re coming out to.
Noticing how they handle difficult emotional events can help you guess what reactions to be ready for. Keep in mind that some people’s reactions can be quite varied, and it might take some time for the news to sink in.
2. Testing the waters.
Figuring out how people feel about LGBT+ people can give you an idea about how they might possibly react (though not always).
A good way to gage their reaction is to gently ask questions relating to LGBT+ issues. For example, you could ask them how they feel about a particular LGBT+ celebrity, or what they think about marriage equality.
Listen to their words: Do they put down LGBT+ people? Do they invoke LGBT+ stereotypes?
Sometimes the people we come out to ask a lot of questions. It’s OK to not have all the answers; it is not your job to be the expert on your identities. If you feel comfortable, you are always welcome to answer these potential questions, but remember that you don’t owe anyone any information that you aren’t comfortable sharing.
There’s no perfect time to come out. In fact, the best time will probably change depending on who you want to tell.
Sometimes it can be helpful to wait for a time when the person you tell feels relaxed, open, and willing to listen. Other times, you may need to share at a random moment. It’s about whenever it feels right to you.
What time of day feels like a good time to share – before school, after work, during dinner? What time works for the person you want to come out to?
The Albert Kennedy Trust warns that if you’re self-isolating with your family, you should think carefully about whether now is the best time to come out.
It’s a particularly stressful time for many parents so it’s possible they won’t react positively, and COVID restrictions could make it hard to find somewhere else to stay.
Like timing, there is also no perfect place to come out. Some places might be safer or more comfortable for you than others.
Would you rather be in a public or private space? Does home feel like a safe place to talk? Is there a location special to you and the person you’re talking with?
Coming out at school can be a great way for some to connect with other LGBT+ classmates. However, school can also be an unsafe space for many people.
When thinking about coming out at school, make sure to keep your safety and wellness in mind. You may want to make a safety plan for school if you feel like you might face some tough times.
How would being out at school make you feel? Does your school have anti-bullying rules that protect LGBT+ students, and are they enforced? If there’s a chance that coming out at school could put your safety at risk, find out what steps you can take to stay safe before you come out.
Try to find out if there are any supportive faculty members, counsellors, teachers or adults you can speak to. There might be a Gender & Sexuality Alliance or similar club or community you could attend.
Remember: coming out doesn’t always go according to our hopes and plans. If people don’t react the way we wish, it does not reflect on the realness of our identities, and it is not our fault. You deserve to be accepted with open arms.
For more help and resources, check out the Trevor Project’s Coming Out Handbook.