The first step is to accept yourself.
This is by far the hardest part of coming out because we are often our own harshest critics. You can’t skip this step. Find a support group in your neck of the woods or visit a chat forum, like the one on EmptyClosets.com where you’ll meet other people tacking the same issues.
If you’ve done the work to accept yourself as a gay, lesbian or bisexual person, coming out will feel like a celebration of you, wonderful you.
Your attitude and comfort level is the key to a good reaction. Basically, the people who love you want you to be happy. If we don’t appear to them to be happy and confident, they will worry and they will blame the thing that’s changed recently.
Once you’re feeling good, put together a supportive network of friends and people you can trust and rely on during this process. The Trevor Project offers a comprehensive list of local support groups and community centers, if you don’t yet have any fabulous LGBT friends.
When you come out to someone, whether it’s in person or via a letter, it’s important to give them space to have their own reaction. Think about your journey of self-acceptance and how long it took for you, then let your parents, family and friends go through the same process. It does help to share some of your process with them, so they know that you’ve given this thoughtful consideration and it’s not a reaction to watching too much “Modern Family” or “Glee.”
Everyone isn’t going to hug you and march in a parade with you. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, sibling, father, mother, ¬†son or daughter, it means they aren’t comfortable…yet. And that’s OK, that’s them. Divest yourself of responsibility for the feelings of others. Continue to love them the way you always have. Acceptance is a two-way street.
When you tell people, it often works well to frame it as something additional and wonderful you’ve discovered about yourself, rather than as a secret you’ve been keeping. It helps people understand that your sexuality adds to and completes the picture of who you are.
Whatever you do, be yourself. People love you for you. The more you share your whole self with them, the more they will love you for it.
Guess what? Unless you tattoo a rainbow flag to your forehead — which I’m not at all recommending — you’ll come out over and over again throughout your life. Sometimes, you’ll want to sleep on a plane, rather than answer a stranger’s questions. That’s OK. You won’t be kicked out of the club for not telling Nosy Nancy from Nebraska that you’re queer.
While the more people who come out, the better things get for all of us, it’s still an intensely personal decision that you’ll make over and over again. Follow your gut in each situation. You are under no obligation to disclose your sexual orientation to everyone you meet.
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