Leaving fear in the closet: Advice on coming out and acceptance

By: John M. Purcell

Coming out of the closet. Revealing your non-heterosexuality to others, can cause a variety of reactions from fantastic to horrible. Every time a someone does it, they are likely to learn at least one thing you wish you knew beforehand. It is a learning experience all the same that it is a discovery of who you are . Save yourself some trouble by reading this and maybe you’ll learn a thing or two that can help you if you’re struggling with this issue.

A very good friend of mine came out a few years back after hiding it from his friends and family for many years. First he told his friends openly on a facebook status, then his parents and for a University course gave a speech on it for a public speaking class. One of the things he told me was the surprising amount of positive support he received. Being raised in a traditionally Catholic family and educated in a Catholic High school here in Puerto Rico, known for being very conservative, heavily influenced by religion and anti-queer to an extent, he was expecting the worst backlash possible. Thankfully, he received immense amount of support and acceptance from his peers, something that everyone should receive and experience when coming out. But at the same time, he felt a bit Lazy in himself that he publicly came out on a facebook status and through a speech. He didn’t feel that it was necessary to do it in such a way, pointing out that he regretted it a bit making the issue a public and universal more than personal and specific. He realized it was somewhat exhausting afterwards, but at the same time he finally let loose something that he was holding back over the years. Hopefully, these 4 tips will help you climb the mountain that is coming without slipping.

1. Being Gay is one of your many qualities

At first when coming out, you might feel now that is the only thing that defines you. Wrong!Although there is nothing wrong with proudly identifying solely with your sexual orientation after coming out, remember that there are other things in your life that shape who you are. Don’t see yourself just as a homosexual. You’re a person, who just so happens to have been born gay. You’re sexuality accounts for one of the thousands of things that someone can know about, and it’s not all that you are. Try to carry that torch with you as you tell other people over time. When you come out, some people will change the way they view you. Perhaps you didn’t seem gay before, or maybe it was obvious and many were expecting it, but people will start to look at everything you do through a new perspective. They’ll start analyzing your choices in life or decisions you’ve made, looking for long-existing signs of homosexuality, and start to act a little differently whether they accept you or not. A huffington post article even jokingly called coming out as “one of Life’s most dreaded moments” if it involved coming out to your parents. Parents, especially, might think raising a gay kid changes a lot when in reality, it doesn’t. Coming out shouldn’t be about how you’ve embraced change, but as something new that you’re now sharing with your friends and family. You still are who you are, and deserve to be all the other parts that make you, so don’t let anyone forget that.

2. You Can’t Predict Every Reaction

“Coming out is such an important “rite of passage” when you are a member of the queer community. it is particularly difficult because it’s hard to anticipate how people are going to react to it. sometimes, it doesn’t matter how supportive people seem to be, because tables often turn once mothers and father (for example) move on to supporting a gay friend to having to deal with supporting a gay child. my biggest advice would be to pick and time and place where whoever you are telling feels comfortable, and to do so as ‘unabruptly’ as possible.” Karla M. Rodriguez, UPRM Student.

The reactions you might get when you finally decide to come out can range from astonishing amazement to “I’ve known all along” and sometimes even those who might be in denial or refuse to believe it. Depending on who you have surrounded yourself with and who you decide to tell and how results in the end result. Maybe you have a close relative who’s always known and excitingly waited for you to finally embrace your sexual orientation, maybe you have a close minded and clueless casual friend who is in disbelief and is surprised or maybe you have those who have to come to terms with it.

“I would say to find some sort of support, a rock of stability that helps you in all the confusion and the prejudice, as long as it’s healthy for you and brings acceptance into your life. Having a good group of friends can really make the difference.” Rene C. Garcia, UPRM Student.

People react in a variety of ways to coming out, ranging from extreme support to nonchalance and sadly some might even never speak to you again. But always remember, expectations aren’t always reality, and sometimes they are. You can’t know how people will react every time, or even most of the time, no matter how aware you may think you are. You will get many reactions wrong, so don’t try to get them right. Instead, put your effort into preparing for the various reactions. Ask yourself what you’ll say if someone hates you, if they love you unconditionally, or if they just don’t care. Consider the reactions people could have rather than thinking about specifics, and know how you plan to deal with it.

3. Bright future lying ahead, but it doesn’t get better immediately

Let’s be real, when you come out, life won’t be all peaches and cream. You’re either lucky enough that nothing extravagant and unnecessary occurs to you when coming out, or for the first time, you are faced with more problems that you could think of. When you come out, you want it to bring you absolute Freedom, but most of the good things in life come to those who are patient. Over time, you will earn that freedom. Just imagine it, some teenagers living with their parents might suddenly have to obey a variety of rules about dating and sex they previously snuck around. Adults may find themselves weighed down by too many possibilities and responsibilities now, unsure of where to start. Regardless of when and how you come out, you won’t necessarily know what to do next. That can lead to problems and mistakes, but most importantly it is a learning experience.

Take things slow. If you rush right out of the closet and try to embrace your new-found freedom, you’ll might find that it may cause more problems than it can solve. You may love too quickly and get hurt, or make poor sexual choices that can impact your health. While you can’t shield yourself from all troubles, that doesn’t mean you should jump off a big gay cliff. Take your time, and learn about what you want now that you’ve chosen not to hide who you are, and try new things slowly. It does get better, but only with patience. Time will always tell.

4. Coming Out Never Ends

Coming out isn’t just something you do once and you’re over with it. It’s something that is always with you, that stays with you over time. People in your life change and you have to keep telling them who you are. You might not like it, but you have to do it. The need to come out never stops, no matter through what method you use to do so. Maybe you write a blog, you’re active within the LGBT community, you express yourself through an art form like poetry or painting, and so on. Look at it this way, if you stop you’re basically putting yourself back in the closet. Sure, some people know, but if you move to a new city, get a new job, or just meet a bunch of different people, your sexuality disappears if you don’t share it. That makes it easy to get back into the habit of hiding who you are and negates all the hard work you did to come out in the first place. NEVER be ashamed of sharing with everyone who you are.

You don’t have to share your sexuality over a facebook status like my friend did, or through a speech for a public speaking class. It can come up in conversation casually, talk about your partner or lover, comment on an attractive member of the same sex, etc. If someone asks you if you have an opposite sex boyfriend or girlfriend, explain why you don’t. You may always have a somewhat difficult time sharing, or maybe you feel you don’t have to on a daily basis, but you still have to do it. Coming out leads to acceptance. It shows people you’re special and unique, but still the awesome person they’ve always known. If more people can accept your differences, they can in others as well and that makes the world a better place for everyone.

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