If you are in the process of coming out or considering coming out, there are probably a lot of thoughts and feelings you are going through. While there is no perfect way, or one size fits all answers, and here are some options to consider as you navigate your own coming out invitation. The classic who, what, when, where, why, and how are actually profound and intentional questions to consider as you plan to come out.
1. Who am I planning to tell?
Consider coming out to the people that you believe will be your greatest supporters first. If you have people in your life that you are needing to come out to, but you are nervous about their reactions or potential rejection, set yourself up well by making sure that you have the people who are in your corner first, and that they are aware of what you are going through and how to best support you as you move forward.
2. What do I need? What might others need?
Make sure you consider the things that you need when you are about to come out. What kind of intentional measures are you requiring in order to be able to do this? It’s also really helpful to consider what it is that you need from the people you are telling. You are not required to educate them, but it could be helpful that you make it a request that they educate themselves, and it’s also beneficial for them to hear what your expectations are and the needs that you have in the ways that they can support you or how to move forward. For example, you may actually want them to be curious about your process.
As far as what others might need, that is a relational consideration that will be nuanced for each person that you share this with. It is important, as with all relationships, to consider each person’s needs, including yourself and the other person. It shouldn’t dominate the process, but considering the individual you are telling, you might want to take factors in like if this is a safe conversation to have 1:1, or would a public or private setting be more appropriate, and so on? Are they an internal processor – which might mean giving them time to think more before responding – or an external processor – meaning they may have a lot of upfront questions or initial words they say that they don’t fully understand, which you may or may not be a space you’re open to holding for them.
3. When do I want to do this?
Timing is helpful, and of course – it’s usually never perfect. But the fact is that there are times which are better than others. In our holiday Q&A episode on QueerRelationTips, Isaac and I discussed the importance of considering holidays as a time to not introduce major new topics. There are so many other times throughout the year besides holidays, which often come with other baggage, stressors, and expectations. You deserve to set yourself, and your loved ones, up well for this conversation. So consider when would be a good time to have that conversation so that it can be done in a way that honors you.
4. Where do I feel best sharing this?
Spaces matter. The space that you are in will create your container, and be a support for you. So consider your needs for this (as well as the needs of the person or people you are telling). Think about a space where you feel like your body can relax, you feel safe, and all of your other needs are met.
5. Why am I coming out?
I know that this question might seem a little obvious, or unnecessary, and believe it or not – it’s really important. This is your story. This is your anchor point, and as the famous Neitzche quote says “when you know your why, you can tolerate any how” Spend some time cultivating your own understanding of your why in coming out, you might even want to write this as a letter to yourself first. You will be surprised at how empowering and also important externalizing and expressing this can be.
6. How do I plan to do this, and how do I want to share my story?
Just like an artist needs to decide the medium they would like to use when creating, it is worth considering your how in the process of coming out. How do you plan to do this? The answers to that question might vary as you choose to navigate the who and the when. A prompt to consider is first writing down your most hopeful – realistic – outcome: what is it that I can realistically and hopefully expect in each coming out experience? A big part of this is grounding expectations. If you are coming out to someone who has displayed a great amount of rejection and homophobia, that is going to also greatly impact you what, when, where, and how – making sure that you are using the lens of choosing to come out for your own liberation, but also having realistic expectations (and taking it slow) while protecting yourself and your emotions. It’s possible that you are going to be coming out, and you are excited (albeit nervous perhaps) to do so, and the hopeful outcome has to be anchored more by realistic expectations of how someone might respond (they may do well, but may also not be perfect). Take some time to process through these things and check in with yourself to make sure that your “how” centers on the support you need, as well as the hopeful memory.
Even something that seems as simple as an “invitation” has a lot of layers in the coming out process. You aren’t alone. Find the supports that are in your corner and will help you find your voice and answers to these important questions. Of course, a counselor or life coach is an excellent resource to guide you through this process and be kind, safe, confidential, and knowledgeable in your life during this pivotal season. We are here for you, and are proud of you and all that you are doing to be the bright light the world needs.