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Coming out is perhaps one of the scariest moments a person of the LGBTQ+ community experiences. And for good reason too. The fear of unacceptance and invalidity is paralyzing, and it constantly hangs over you, because coming out doesn’t happen just once; it is an ongoing process.
The first time a person comes out is a huge moment in their life, even if it doesn’t feel like it in the heat of the moment. The experience is unique to every person, so there is really no ‘right’ way to come out, whether it be to your family, or to the guy selling you hot dogs on the side of the street.
For some people, coming out to a person who doesn’t know you very well can prepare you for when you come out to your family. Take my experience, for example. My freshman year of high school, I sat in the balcony of the theatre with another girl during tech week. I had only met her that year, but we were both working the spotlights for the fall musical. One day, I blurted out that I thought I was asexual. I had been thinking about it for weeks, and in that moment, I was scared as the words I uttered left my lips. I doubt she remembers that afternoon, as she didn’t seem to acknowledge my vulnerability then, but that moment has ultimately stuck with me. No, I didn’t receive the validation I was hoping for, but merely saying the words out loud started me along my journey of coming to terms with my identity.
Now, this might not be the case for every person. Coming out to someone you don’t know well can be scary, and some might prefer to come out to closer friends who they know they can trust. The decision is up to the individual, and how they gage the situation.
Coming out is unavoidable for members of the LGBTQ+ community, and as aforementioned, it is an ongoing process. Everywhere you go, there are new people you will meet, and new spaces and communities you will become involved in. You don’t have to come out in all of these communities, and you don’t have to come out to all the people in a single community. It can be tiring, coming out every day, and it can also be terrifying.
To clarify, when I mean coming out every day, I’m not referring to the act of vocalizing your identity to every person you meet. Rather, coming out every day means simply reaffirming your identity to yourself and others, whether that be reminding people of your pronouns, or expressing your identity openly.
It’s no secret that coming out is a scary process, and the first time a person comes out may not be the worst. For many people, coming out to their parents is the scariest, as many people fear their very parents might not accept them for who they are. It is heartbreaking when a child realizes their parents neither love nor accept them for the way they are. Roughly 40 percent of the homeless youth across the United States identify within the LGBTQ+ community as a result of their parents disowning them or kicking them out of their households.
If you aren’t sure how to come out to your parents, friends, or co-workers, there are many different methods you can choose from. If you prefer not to be direct, you can drop hints with rainbow items, for example, or simply say it in passing. On the other hand, if you prefer to be direct, you can ask someone to sit down with you and formally present your identity to them. Perhaps you want to lessen the reaction to your identity; you can present much larger news to a person that will grab their attention, and then come out to them afterwards. The method is up to you, and when in doubt, the internet is full of great ideas as well.
While October 11 is National Coming Out Day, do not feel pressured to leave the closet. If the circumstances are such that you would not feel safe if you were to come out in a particular space, then wait until you find a safe one. If you are dependent on your parents and you feel that they might kick you out, wait until you are financially independent before coming out to them. Above all else, the decision to come out is yours and yours alone. No one should force you to come out, nor should they force you to stay in the closet. So whether you decide to come out during this national holiday or not, what matters most is that you are valid, and you will find people who will accept you for who you are.