A Guide to Coming Out
How to "come out" to your friends and family as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. This is a story I asked my daughter to write about her experience in the beginning stages of realizing she was gay and the stages that followed. I thought her story could help other preteens and teens who struggle with their sexual orientation. I added a few things to her story that I thought may be helpful as well.
Coming out - A "How To" Guide
Coming out as a member of the LGBT community is a different experience for everyone. For some, coming out is the easiest thing in the world. For others, it’s a nightmare. In my experiences with coming out and watching other people come out, I’ve learned some things.
Stage 1: Realizing That Your Gay
One day you’re sitting on your couch binge watching Criminal Minds. The BAU squad is chasing after some crazy dude who likes birds a little too much when suddenly, the strong and beautiful Agent Jennifer Jareau comes on screen. And you think “Wow, she can arrest me any day.” Hey wait a second…was that Gay? Yes! That was so totally gay and so are you!
Realizing your own gayness (or bi-ness) can be scary and confusing. It’s ok! We’ve all been there. Sometimes it’s gradual and sometimes it’s very sudden. You’re sitting in the movie theater enjoying your popcorn while watching The Avengers when BAM! Scarlett Johansson (or Chris Evans) comes out of nowhere and suddenly you’re seeing rainbows.
I really wasn’t sure what was wrong with me but I was convinced it was terminal. I thought maybe I had an illness that I just couldn’t shake. I was scared and confused until one day I realized “Ha I’m not dying, I’m just GAY”. When it became clear to me what was happening, I was amazingly calm and no longer afraid.
Unfortunately, coming to the realization that you get those fluttery feelings towards members of your same gender, is the easy part.
Stage 2: Accepting That Your Gay
Realizing the extent of your homosexual hankering is just the first step. Now it’s time for the hard stuff; loving your little gay self for it. The challenge is loving yourself despite all of society thinking you’re a freak and wanting you to be hetero. Some people will even try and pray-away your gay in the hopes you will go back the way you were before you came out. It’s just too uncomfortable for them to accept you the way you truly are – which you and I know is completely and utterly GAY.
The truth is that whether those around you accept your gayness (or bi-ness) or not, is not your concern. My advice; find new people to hang around with because it’s not your job to convince anyone to be okay with your gay.
Stage 3: Telling People Your Gay
Revealing your gayness (or bi-ness) to the world isn't usually something that happens all at once. The first time you tell someone about your same-sex secret can be nerve wracking. Take it slow. Come out to someone you trust. It can just be as simple as “I’m gay – just thought you should know”.
Sometimes it’s easier to find a complete stranger. Walk up to someone who looks nice and say, “Hey! I’m gay!”, then run away. You don’t know this person and their opinion doesn't matter to you. Sometimes just telling anyone can release pent up anxiety which will kick-start the process.
If you’re too shy to blurt it to strangers, find your local gay. They can’t reject you for being gay because they’re gay too! Strike up a conversation about politics or the weather, and find a clever way to slip in how hot you think girls (or boys or nonbinary people) are. Chances are they’ll know why you’re talking to them. We can sniff out fellow gays from a mile away.
If there are no other gays within reach, go for a trusted friend or family member. If you want to tell your best friend or your parents right away, you are a brave soul. Personally, I worked up to that but do whatever your little gay heart desires.
You’ll find that after you tell the first person, word travels fast. There will also be many people who will not be surprised by your “news” about being gay. My mom wasn’t surprised and told me she thought I had “tendencies” dating back to when I was about six years old. Many other people I told said, “Oh, okay thanks for sharing” and we continued to talk about random stuff.
Stage 4: Living Life as a Gay
After the people close to you know your secret, you will notice the anxiety gradually fade away. The next step is living your life as a full-blown lady-lover (or boy buff). You may encounter a wide-range of emotions on your journey so be prepared. It’s totally normal to feel excited because you now can live your life as gay as you want.
Gay life lesson #1: Try to Be Cool-ish
You will probably have the desire to run through the streets screaming “I’m gay, who’s with me?” because you’ll feel a sort-of desperation to find your people. It’s completely normal, when you first come out, to want to find people who are like you and people who will love you. It can be lonely at first so join (or start) a group in your area so you can connect with your fellow gays outside of school or work. My mom started a meetup group at www.meetup.com. and I met a few nice people who are like me and they helped me feel more "normal" - whatever that is!
This is an exciting time for you and it’s good to be happy to finally be “out”. Just be aware your enthusiasm isn’t always appreciated. If there’s someone you’re interested in, ask around first to see if you can get information about him/her before you bravely ask them on a date. Trust me, you’ll get better at detecting another gay soon enough. You may get to the point where you can tell if a person is gay before they even know it themselves.
Gay life lesson #2: Beware of the haters.
This is your reality now and like-it-or-not there may be people who will want to hurt you just because you’re different from them. I don’t like it either but sadly, this is the society we live in. It’s possible they are exactly like you but just can’t admit it so they see you as a threat to their own identity. Or maybe they are simply ignorant asshole homo-phobes of which there is no cure.
My advice is to choose love and understanding whenever possible. Be careful not to get in a dangerous situation. I’m not saying to constantly be on the defensive and closed off, but be cautious. Find out who you can trust and always choose situations where you know it’s safe to be your little gay self.
Gay life lesson #3: Take Care of Yourself
Mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety can sometimes be a part of your “coming-out” experience and for many reasons. Maybe you have people in your life who don’t accept you. Maybe you feel completely alone because everyone around you is straight. Maybe people who were friends with you before you came out, have decided they no longer want to be your friend. Maybe it’s all of the above.
If you are having trouble with depression, talk to a professional about it. You can confide in your friends but if your emotions get the better of you (i.e. depression, anxiety, loneliness, isolation), it’s best to find a counselor or therapist who can give you the tools to cope with your situation. Sometimes it’s hard to find a good counselor that you mesh with so you may have to go through a few of them before you choose one that you feel understands you and can really help.
With your parent's permission, join (or start) a support group in your area. Find groups on other social media platforms but beware; many groups on social media are all about sex so make sure your account is set to private so the trolls can’t follow you. My mom is constantly checking my accounts so beware my little gays.
Attend gay functions like the annual “Gay Pride Parade”. We have one in Chicago and I went to my first one in 2015. The experience was truly invigorating for me. Everybody’s a little gay during Gay Pride week so go and be around your people and feel the vibe of gays across the land.
Get a journal and write out your feelings. Be sure to hide it if you fear your pesky siblings or parents may get to it. That would be tragic.
Stage 5 Loving Your Little Gay Self
If you’re like me, you have times where you think you’re a piece of garbage regardless of how many people tell you they love you and accept you. This is something that will take time to change. I’m hoping that this feeling will go away over time. I think it has to do with all the pressures I feel as a teenager, as well as, feeling unaccepted from mainstream society.
We have to surround ourselves with people who love us. If that’s not possible in your life right now, then protect your own little gay heart even if there is no one around you who will.
Finally, I believe that not being afraid to live your life to the gayest is the reward you get for all of the anxiety and hardships you faced while going through the earlier stages. This stage is a time for you to embrace your sexuality and be the happiest gay on the planet.
Please feel free to leave your comments below and email us with any questions you have or if you need some help.
Read some books that relate to you. Here are a few I’ve read and have enjoyed. I've attached links to Amazon and if you click on them and make a purchase, I receive a small commission. Thanks if you do. Or you can try and get them from your local library.
Here are some Netflix movies I’ve enjoyed watching
- The Out List
- We Were Here
- How to Survive a Plague
- Growing Up Coy
- Matt Shepard is A Friend of Mine
- A Sinner in Mecca
- Game Face
Please note that the above advice comes from my experience and perspective. Everyone's experience is different so please ask for help if you need it.