Coming out and living openly aren’t something you do once, or even for one year. It’s a journey that we make every single day of our lives. Every coming out experience is unique and must be navigated in the way most comfortable for the individual.
Coming Out to Oneself
Often, the coming out journey begins long before you’ve said a word to anyone. The realization that your sexual orientation may be different from others’ may trigger internal reflection that can last days, months or years before you’re comfortable talking about it. The journey is different for everyone. But figuring out your sexual identity can be complicated. It could take several months or several years. You may find it to be a lifelong process. Whatever your experience, it can help to talk to someone else about it. It’s normal to have trouble putting your thoughts into words, but you may find that a trusted friend or relative will listen to you anyway. You might also consider looking into local organizations in your community where you can find support from others who have gone through the same experiences.
Coming Out to Family as Gay
For many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, coming out to their families is a momentous occasion in their lives. Because coming out to your family is a key step in the process, it helps to prepare yourself for how they might react.
Fostering strong, deep relationships with your friends and family begins with honesty. Living openly is important because it allows for closer relationships with the people you care about — and ultimately a happier life for you. For most people, coming out or opening up to someone new starts with a conversation. It’s normal to want or hope for positive reactions. Positive reactions can result from your coming out conversation, but they may not happen immediately. Give the person you’re telling the time they need.
It may also be helpful to remember that the person you’re really doing this for is you. When you’re ready to tell someone, consider starting with the person most likely to be supportive.
Coming out will be an ongoing process. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that while the facts surrounding your sexual orientation may seem obvious to you, it may represent a significant change from the way your family has always viewed the world. Although you’ve had time to grow comfortable with your sexuality, you are your family’s only source of information on the subject. Try to remain patient with them and answer their questions openly and honestly. The key point to remember is that all relationships, whether they are same-sex or opposite-sex, deserve respect and understanding.
Coming Out in the Workplace as Gay
Coming out to your coworkers can be yet another difficult step. However, should you decide to be open in the workplace, your decision could have a dramatic impact on those around you. For many of your coworkers, you may be the first gay person they’ve ever encountered. While deciding whether to come out in your workplace, keep in mind that more and more businesses are welcoming gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees into the workforce, and implementing policies such as domestic partner benefits, non-discrimination ordinances and inclusive diversity training that protect LGBT workers. However, it’s important to keep in mind that not every state has laws protecting people from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. It may be a good idea to find out about employment discrimination laws in your state and consult your employer’s written policy on discrimination before deciding whether to come out to your coworkers.