Wednesday (October 11) is National Coming Out Day! National Coming Out Day was first established in 1988 to celebrate the one year anniversary of the 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. This can be a huge celebration for those in the LGBTQ community, but those who are not yet out can also be a lot of pressure on this day.
Although no one should ever feel pressured into coming out, doing so can provide relief. If you’re considering coming out, we’ve answered some common questions regarding coming out. Check out this advice to decide whether now is the right time for you to come out.
When should I come out, and how will I know I’m ready?
The right environment for coming out is one that’s safe, comfortable, and full of trust. If you have this kind of relationship with certain family members, friends, and peers, you might be ready to share this part of your identity with them.
Never come out because you feel pressured or forced into it. Your identity is yours, and you do not have to share it with anyone. Take things at your own pace, and when you’re ready, come out on your own terms.
How should I come out?
Coming out is different for everyone. Some people like to share their identity with many people at once on Facebook or Instagram. Others prefer coming out to one person at a time via a letter, phone call, or in-person conversation. For certain LGBTQ individuals, coming out to themselves may be enough, and they might not officially “come out” to others. Think about your needs and desires surrounding coming out, and choose the best method for your situation.
What if I’m afraid?
Coming out can be scary, especially if your LGBTQ identity is a personal part of you. Your mind might go to the worst case scenario, and you might worry about how your loved ones will react. The best way to overcome this fear is to establish and tell your support system. Tell the people that you know will love you unconditionally (like your parents, siblings, friends, significant others, or mental health professional), then use them as a place of support as you tell others.
Above all, be brave. Even if you know your loved ones will accept your LGBTQ identity, you still might feel afraid. Push past the uncertainty and, if you’re ready, face your fears and come out.
What if people respond negatively?
Reactions to coming out vary from person to person. In some cases, you might even receive a downright cruel response. If this happens, turn to those who love and accept you for comfort. Don’t let rude or insensitive comments lower your self-esteem. If you feel profound sorrow or anxiety after coming out, call a local crisis center or the Trevor Project, a crisis line for LGBTQ youth.
Even people with good intentions might react in a negative way. If your loved one did not respond in the way that you had hoped, you might just have to give it time. Think about how long it took for you to accept your LGBTQ identity. Have patience with loved ones as they seek to understand your identity, and direct them to positive resources. When you feel hopeless or misunderstood, reach out to your support system.
Do I have to come out?
You don’t have to! If you feel that you want to and are comfortable with it, that might be the healthiest step for you. But no one ever has to come out. Plenty of people live authentically without making an official announcement about your LGBTQ identity. Whether you come out or not, it should be for your benefit.
Do whatever feels authentic and comfortable for you. If you’re ready to come out, great! If not, that’s okay, too.
For more information and resources on coming out, we recommend the Human Rights Campaign website, where you can find resources for and the history of National Coming Out Day. The Trevor Project, a support organization for LGBTQ youth, also offers resources on coming out.