For many individuals, there may be one defining or significant moment when they ‘come out’, but more often, ‘coming out’ becomes an experience that is repeated multiple times throughout their lives. It can be a long process of understanding and accepting your sexual orientation or gender identity and coping with the ways in which others respond to your news.
Here are a few things to think about if you’re facing the prospect of this often multi-staged process:
Do you have a strong support network?
It’s rare that coming out is a straightforward, uneventful occurrence, and even rarer that the emotional responses of others will be the same. So, it’s extremely helpful for you to have a strong network of people that you can rely on to support you, and not just when you first come out, but for every other stage of the process that you may be faced with.
Even if there is just one person that you can turn to in confidence, and even if it’s an anonymous person such as someone working for an LGBTQ hotline, it will mean that you have a positive, non-judgmental outlet for your emotions.
Are you prepared to be patient?
Often, those around you may take time to fully understand your news, and some may even react initially with shock or sadness. It might be wise to assume that your news will not always be met positively, so that you’re prepared should hard responses happen. That isn’t to say that those who love you will never accept you for who you are, but it may take time.
For those who are particularly struggling to cope with your news, but for whom you are confident it’s due to a lack of understanding rather than a simple matter of disappointment, anger or sadness, you could try to educate them about what it really means to be LGBTQ. Help them to understand some of the struggles you’ve already gone through in life and make them aware of the many struggles you will doubtlessly continue to face.
It’s a sad reality that things may get tough for you as a member of the LGBTQ community. If you face discrimination or hostility, you will need to rely on your inner strength and uphold your self-respect so that you can continue to make yourself proud. Not all others may embrace you, but you should certainly love yourself.
While it may be a cliché that loves conquers all, it is often true, and the more you love yourself for who you are, the more you’ll find yourself in grounded space of self-compassion.
If you’re struggling with the mental or physical pressures of having recently come out, then please find someone that you can trust to talk to about it. Counselors can be hugely beneficial, providing you with support and professional guidance when you really need it, and with their help, you could soon be living the happy, safe and loving life that you deserve.