So you’ve finally flung that closet door wide open and unleashed your fabulous LGBTQ self onto The World. If you thought that was the hardest part of coming out, then I’m afraid I have some bad news for you. The truth is that Coming Out is only the first part of actually Coming Out. Once the awkward conversations are out of the way, there’s plenty of fallout that happens as a part of the process.
These milestones can be uncomfortable, embarrassing or downright confusing, and they aren’t often discussed. Many people go into the process of Coming Out with the assumption that once they come out, they’re done. But opening up and being honest about who you are has a way of changing your life and, as with any other life changing process, there are some life lessons you’re bound to pick up along the way.
The LGBT Community Isn’t Exactly One Big Happy Club
For all the attention and work the LGBT community does to be supportive, they can also be a catty, insular bunch. Trans and Queer people often report a surprising amount of discrimination and harassment from people within the community. And don’t even get me started on the long standing – and somewhat mysterious – divide that exists between gay men and lesbians. The truth is that in many cases, the LGBT community is less of an actual community and more like a string of villages joined by a common thread. How To Deal With It: No matter how you identify, connect with others through online and real world support groups and meet-ups. If you can’t find one already established, create your own using a website like Meet Up or Craigslist.
Gay People Are Suddenly Everywhere!
Sometimes you never notice how prolific something is until it’s a part of your life. Remember when you finally broke down and started watching Game of Thrones and suddenly every post on Imgur, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all had weird inside jokes you never noticed before? Coming out can be a lot like that. Seemingly overnight you will begin to notice gay, lesbian, trans and queer people everywhere. How To Deal With It: If LGBT people seem to be everywhere you look, it’s probably because they are. Being out and open about sexuality and gender is becoming increasingly mainstream. You may not have noticed it as much in the past, but now that it’s at the center of your life, you’re much more likely to notice it.
You AREN’T The Same Person
As people come out to friends and family they will often say “This doesn’t change who I am” or “I’m still the same person”. While on one level, this is true, it’s also not. Of course you’ll still be the same loveable person they’ve always known. Coming out won’t alter your love for cartoons, comic books, hiking, anime, Game of Thrones or anything else. But coming out does change who you become. It’s a milestone moment in a person’s life and it absolutely changes your life. So while you’ll still be the same person fundamentally, accept the fact that this process will leave you a changed person. How To Deal With It: Accept it. Shit – CELEBRATE it. Change is good. Think for a moment of the person you were 10 years ago – the person you were as a kid or teenager. The idea that we have to always stay The Same means we would never have the opportunity to learn and grow – and where’s the fun in that? People change – it’s a fact of life. Just be sure every change you go through is a positive change that helps you live more honestly.
Holding Hands in Public Will Suddenly Feel Weird Again
Once you’re out, you’ll inevitably want your family and friends to meet anyone special in your life. Bringing any significant other home to meet everyone is pretty weird and uncomfortable under any circumstances, but for someone newly out, it can be especially awkward. Provided you are visiting with people who have been supportive as you’ve come out, you can expect them to be warm and welcoming to anyone special you bring around. At the same time, you can expect them to visibly notice – and sometimes react – when the two of you hold hands, kiss or engage in any other forms of PDA, no matter how chaste. They may try not to obviously stare or anything, but it will be noticeable. How To Deal With it: Keep in mind you might also become something of a Sensitive Sally during the process of Coming Out. Openly discussing your sexuality with friends and (especially) family would be awkward under any circumstances. Their double-takes or awkward pauses aren’t evidence of hidden homophobia or a subtle judgement of you; they’re just reacting to something different. Give them some time to adjust and soon holding hands or sharing a kiss with your partner in front of your family will only be regular-level weird.
You Will Lose People You Thought Had Your Back … And That’s Okay
Before you come out you’ll have thought about how things will go over and over again. You will have run through dozens – if not hundreds – of different scenarios of how things would go. While you might hit some right on the head, there are bound to be a few curve balls. The unpleasant truth is that most LGBT people end up losing someone close to them after coming out. It might be an aunt, a brother, a your best friend since kindergarten or even a parent. Some will say it’s because of your “chosen lifestyle”, others will claim you’ve become “too political” and still more won’t even bother to offer up a reason. Instead, they’ll simply get in touch less, drift away slowly until one day you realize they’re just gone. How To Deal With It: How serious this problem is depends entirely on the person – or people – you lose as a result of coming out. Sometimes confronting the person brings closure, other times it only makes things worse. These waters can be difficult to navigate and, honestly, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. If you find yourself at a loss on how to cope, reach out for professional help. But never let anyone make you think you don’t deserve to be happy or that there’s something wrong with you for simply wanting to be able to love who you love and express who you are.
Coming out isn’t a one-and-done kind of experience. Many LGBT people find they are almost constantly ‘coming out’ for the rest of their lives. At the same time, it isn’t about running around telling the world “I’m Gay!” either. You come out when someone asks whether or not you have a boyfriend and you tell them about your girlfriend. It’s about answering with a male name when they ask what you wife’s name is. It’s politely declining and explaining why no, you’re not interested in the nice girl Aunt Beverly wants to set you up with. It’s about correcting someone when they use the wrong pronoun for you, holding hands in public, wearing what you want and moving through the world and living your life in a way that makes you happy.
What you’ll learn as a result of Coming Out goes well beyond the lessons we’ve listed here. But as you begin this new part of your life, it’s important to remember that even though the process can seem isolating, it’s not. Change is difficult and seldom enjoyable in the moment, but once you’re out of the closet and in the world, those changes result in a brighter world and a clearer vision for yourself.