Before you step out of ‘The Closet’

It’s been almost a year since I came out as gay on Facebook. A lot has happened since then, many things have changed and many things I have learnt from this experience. There are many things that I would have done differently with respect to my coming out. No…I don’t regret coming out at all. It was a liberating experience that set me free and changed me from an isolated introvert to a confident, self-assured, gay man. But there were many ways in which I could have made this a more positive experience. If you are a gay man planning to come out to your friends or family then here are a few tips that I would like to share with you. These tips are based on what I experienced after coming out.

1. One Step at a time:
DO NOT come out until you are ready to come out. Better late, than hasty. If you have siblings or friends whom you trust, then first come out to them. If you are not ready to hold your ground then coming out at the wrong time could make it very hard for you to deal with the consequences.

2. Be Confident:
When people realize that you are sure about what you are saying, they will take it more seriously and pay attention. If they perceive that you are in doubt, they are more likely to pass it off as a phase or will simply suggest that you are confused. A simple statement like “I’m Gay” is more effective than “I think I’m gay”.

3. DON’T Be Defensive or Apologetic:
You are simply stating a Fact. You don’t have to prove yourself or defend your choice (or the lack of it) to anyone. If someone asks “How do you know?” there’s no need to jump into long emotional speeches. Just say that you know and there’s no middle ground for confusion or doubt. If someone keeps trying to convince you to believe otherwise then tell them that you are far better aware of yourself and your life. Be firm but polite (as much as possible).

4. Don’t Discriminate with yourself:
After coming out, your interaction with many people will change. Don’t start avoiding people or places you usually go to just because others might be uncomfortable. Give them the chance to get used to the idea of associating with a gay man. This will require a lot of courage but it is very important. People will generally learn from you how to treat you. So don’t let them believe that anything has changed.

5. Don’t get Intimidated:
If bullies or haters around you try to scare you or taunt you, look them in the eye and tell them to back off. These people are usually a cowardly lot and won’t pick a fight if they realize that you are prepared to fight back.

6. Be Responsible about your close ones:
Your coming out is not only going to affect you but also people close to you like your friends and roommate. They will be under scrutiny for associating with you. It would be wise to give them a heads up before you decide to come out in public. People are more likely to accost and interrogate them rather than you. So they would need as much your support as you need theirs. Relation with close ones could get strained, not for your sexuality but for the selfish act of coming out.

7. Be Patient when answering Queries:
By coming out in public you are basically giving everyone a license to ask questions about your sexuality and life. Be patient when answering these questions. Most people don’t have experience in associating with LGBT people. Your response could be responsible for how they treat other LGBT person. However there will be airheads who will try to challenge you with their own theories rather than satiate their ignorance. Don’t waste time on these people. Tell them to come back and ask questions once they are ready to step out of their Oyster shells.

8. Not everything will be Hunky-Dory:
At the end of it all, not everyone is going to be pleased or convinced. Some relationships will change. You will need to accept that and resist the temptation to try and convince everyone. If you are really important to them then they will find a way to wrap their heads around the truth.

Some or maybe all of these tips could be inapplicable to you. Or maybe you have some better way of coming out. Only you can be the judge of when and how to come out. Have faith in yourself. Because you are brave and wonderful. The toughest battles are given to the strongest warriors.

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