The art of coming out is that there is no art to coming out.
In an ideal world, coming out would not be a thing. It would not matter how someone identified their sexual orientation or their gender. What would matter is the quality of a person’s heart and mind. Alas, we are not there yet on a collective scale. I come across people all the time to whom it does not matter a person’s sexuality or gender expression. With that being said, there are still plenty of people in the world who do not understand what they see as different than themselves. Often our families and friends live with perceived expectations of who they believe we are or are supposed to be. Attempting to live up to those expectations can create anxiety, worry, shame and even trauma. Coming out of the closest and sharing with others our queerness can be terrifying, freeing and exhilarating all at the same time. Sometimes, it is necessary for our own personal freedom and authenticity. Have you ever considered that you may be selling short the people you think will not Love and/or accept you? The reality is that you may be right. And you may be wrong. You will not know unless you try.
If there are folks who no longer wish you to be part of their life, that can be painful, but it is okay. We cannot make our own self-acceptance reliant on the acceptance of others. In life, there will always be people that accept who we are and people who do not, regardless whether it is our queerness or otherwise. It is okay to not be accepted by others, however painful it may be. If you are experiencing this, remember how worthy, beautiful and valuable that you are. Find the people who see this in you as well and allow them into your world.
I am grateful to live in a time where we get to see our younger generation coming into the world and changing the normalcy of the LGBTQIA+ community. We are just as “normal” as any other non queer identifying person. We have hopes, dreams and struggles just like anyone else. We want families, careers and adventures just like anyone else. We are no less worthy of the life we dream about than any other person. You are worthy in all of your queerness and you have a community that wants you. There is no best or right way to come out, whether to your Loved ones, the world or whomever else you feel necessitates you telling them who you are and who you Love. Also, if you choose to not share your identity with others, that is okay too. You get to decide how you want to show up in the world. Do not allow others to dictate that for you.
Every situation is different. There are many factors involved when figuring out how to come out, when to come out and who to come out to. Sometimes, it is planned out in detail. Other times it may be impulsive. It can happen in person, over the phone, via text, in a letter, an email or even a video. The point is that there is no right or best way to come out. Your coming out experience is yours and yours alone to decide. If you need help, get support. Ask other people how they did it and what their experience was. Remember, the circumstances of you and your life are different so your experience may be different as well. Ask a friend or Loved to be there with you when you do it. Whatever you feel will help you have the courage you need, do that. You do not have to do it alone. Your greatest tools in sharing yourself with the world are courage, acceptance and self-Love. The more expectations that you put on yourself to be any certain way, the more anxious you might feel and the more you may withdraw from the world or lash out at the world. You are okay as you are. You matter as you are.
Coming out has not been easy for most of us. No one is telling you that it should be. I assure you, courage, self-acceptance and self-Love do live somewhere in you, waiting for you to call them forth, and give you the strength to be your most authentic beautiful self. I began coming out when I was 14 and over the duration of year 15, I came out to everyone. I was an effeminate little boy, growing up in southern Georgia. Hiding the fact that I was gay, was virtually impossible. No matter how often I was asked if I was gay or called, queer, fag or girly, I continually professed that I was not gay. This is something that began as early as I could remember. I often wondered, “Why does it matter, why can’t people just be okay with me as I am?”
I realized at a young age that I was going to have to work hard to hide the part of me that I was so terrified to allow others to see. I often thought, “If only they can just focus on the other really great parts of me.” But I represented something that so many people in the south believe and teach others is wrong and is a sin. Knowing this made every day harder and harder. I was also a sensitive boy and in a world of toxic masculinity. I was often teased for that too. As I am sure you can imagine, most people equated the two as being one in the same. Being a sensitive man does not have to mean anything more. I was not sensitive because I was gay. I was sensitive because I have a big heart and am compassionate and empathetic and feel everything so deeply. Life continued on during my childhood, me being called, girly, gay, queer, fag and faggot pretty often. When I was a young boy, I always knew that I liked other boys, not girls. Growing up in the church, I also knew that was perceived as wrong. I did not really know that I was gay until other kids would call me that and it made sense, however terrifying it was to admit.
Shortly before I turned 14, I met this girl named Amy. She moved to my small school from the next town over. She stood out above everyone because she had this, “I don’t give a fuck attitude” that was stronger than any I had seen. She happened to know some of the girls that I hung out with at school, so she would hang out with our group at recess. One of the first days that she met me, she started telling me that she wanted me to meet her friend Jamie, who I assumed was a girl. I tried to tell her that I was not interested in meeting her because I was focusing on school. She laughed and said, “Jamie is a boy.” This was in front of all the girls in my group. I turned red with embarrassment and immediately defended myself that I was not gay and was not interested. She then proceeded to argue with me in front of my friends that I was gay and that I should not be ashamed of it or give a fuck what anyone else thought about it. I continued to deny it, feeling more and more embarrassed. She eventually dropped it and we all stood there, quietly awkward until someone changed the subject.
As much as I hated that moment, I felt drawn to Amy and her courage and strong sense of self. I started to hang out with her more and she would always tell me that it was okay with her if I was gay and that it does not matter what anyone else says. She would tell me that I would feel so much better if I admitted who I was. On the outside, it seemed as if she was bullying me out of the closest. But it was not that. She Loved me as I was and made me feel safe to be whomever I was when I was with her. Over a few months of her not giving up, I began to trust her more and more. During that time one of my friends at church who was a girl had written me a letter, asking me to be her boyfriend. The thought of telling her no, crushed me because I Loved her as a friend. I knew that my no had nothing to do with her, but she would not know that. So, I decided to take a chance and tell her that my no was because I am gay. I was terrified because it was a church friend. She was the first person that I ever came out to. She still Loved me and never treated me any differently after that. A few days later, I finally came out to Amy. She was so happy and excited for me. Soon after that, I came out to my sister. It got easier and easier with each person that I told, minus my family.
My family was a different story. They, other than my sister and brother would be the last ones I came out to. Some were accepting and said, “Yea, we know, we have always known.” The more religious ones did the whole, it is a sin and you are going to hell thing. In fact, the person that meant the most to me in my family, my grandmother, was one of those people. It crushed me. After a few years, she eventually came around and would ask me about boyfriends or guys that I was dating. I am grateful that even my southern Baptist grandmother eventually realized that her Love for me far outweighed something someone else told her to believe was wrong. Thankfully, she was always a strong-willed woman, who let her Love for her family override everything. In coming out, our job should never be to please others. It should be about giving ourselves the freedom to be fully and unabashedly ourselves, our queerness and all. What matters most, is that you find the courage within yourself to be fully self-expressed as your authentic self. It is okay to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, non-binary and any other identity on the spectrum that you identify with. In the queer world, there is room for us all. We know what it feels like to be judged and excluded.
Dr. Matt is a healer and teacher whose purpose is to guide others on their path of self-healing through being a channel for the Universe. He believes ultimate healing occurs through the transformation of our fears, judgements and limiting beliefs along with restoring our connection to Love. This process can only occur when we are willing to Love ourselves unconditionally.