Over the past few years, I’ve shared different components of my coming out story and experiences on this day each year.
But this year, I want to share some of the lessons from coming out that I have learned over the years to perhaps helps any one else working through this process.
- National Coming Out Day shouldn’t be the day you come out. For me, NCOD is about celebrating those who have come out and on the journey of coming out.
- Its your own journey. We each come out in different ways at different times. For some it’s an internal and simple process. For others it is an external and complex process. For some it’s personal conversations with friends and family and others it’s posting it on Facebook. for some you come out at a young age, while others of us decide to come out later in life. Regardless how or when you do it, it does not diminish the significance of your decision and identity.
- Its a process for all. Just like those of us who come out, there is a process of being on the receiving end of coming out as well. Not only is the context and identity of the individual new but theres new terminology, perhaps new pronouns, new phrases, and new community to learn and understand. For those of us in an educational field we know the breadth of information we teach on. It takes us years to learn what we know. So give time to those you come out to, to become educated and learn the community.
- Its ok to take a time out. Sometimes you have to take a time out from people. Its ok to step back and give people, or even yourself, time and space to process and handle your new identity and people’s reactions. But the next step in the relationship should be to reach out periodically when you are ready and when the other people seem ready to talk about it. Don’t ignore it.
- Family is not only connected by blood. When you come out, you learn that while blood family is important, it is not the only family in your life. You can create family. True family will struggle and go through the process with you. That can include blood family members but it also can be friends who take care of you, support you and love you for who you are.
- “Ignorant is bliss” game does continue. Even after coming out people will play the “ignorant is bliss” game. Try to be conscious of this. Acknowledge that even though things may seem fine, key life events will happen such as engagements, weddings, children, etc that will jarred these individuals back to the reality and remind them that you are LGBTQ. You will be in an eternal circle of “coming out” to them. For most in this vicious circle, it’s revisiting hurtful conversations such as “what did I do wrong in raising you to turn you gay” or the eternal damnation of your soul.
- Its a challenge for parents and guardians. Regardless if you have supportive parents or guardians, its still a challenge. For many parents and guardians, creating dreams and hopes for their children is natural. For most, however, it is founded in heterosexual normative structures i.e. the perfect wedding day for the bride and groom, having children of their own, living life without the fear of harassment and discrimination. When we come out to our parents and/or guardians, it can shatter those hopes and dreams. It changes how they have to view you and the context of their hopes and dreams for you and for some it is not an easy to make such significant changes to long standing hopes and dreams.
- You have self-authorship. You have the ability to dictate your life journey. You can find a support system. You can choose who is in your life or not. You can choose your family. You can define the boundaries and context of your life. I acknowledge that at times these are more challenging such as when you come out as a teenager or if you live at home vs coming out in college or as an adult or if you’re living on your own. But there is a community out there to help you.
Just some thoughts and lesson from my coming out journey so far.
Until next time,
Peace, Love and Pandas!