Coming to terms with the fact that you’re gay can be hard enough, but for most of us, coming out of the closet can be even harder. (Yes, even in 2019.) To begin with, not everyone in a gay person’s life turns out to be as supportive as you’d otherwise hope. Plus, there’s a learning curve to dating as an openly gay man that can be hard to master.
Thankfully, being as prepared as possible can help with the process a lot. For every issue a gay man faces with coming out, you can absolutely bet there are hundreds of others who have experienced it before. The following are just a few examples.
1. Nerves and Anxiety
It’s not just the challenge of adjusting to life as an openly gay man that’s hard to deal with. Anxiety and worry over what could happen are half the reason coming out is so hard in the first place. Sometimes it can be helpful to test the waters a little bit first as a way to gauge the potential reactions of some of the most important people in your life (e.g. parents, best friends, or siblings).
Try bringing up an LGBTQ topic that’s been in the news lately in general conversation. People’s individual reactions can help you figure out what you’re in for. Based on what you learn, consider coming out to the most open-minded and socially aware people first. Save the more challenging folks for after you’ve had some practice and feel a little braver.
Keep in mind that there’s no set timeline as far as when you come out and to whom. In fact, it’s actually a really good idea to take your time and wait until you’re truly ready. Definitely give yourself adequate time to get comfortable with your new identity as an openly gay man first. Coming out is never easy, but it’s a lot easier for someone who’s completely comfortable in their own skin.
A good moment coming out would be when you’d suspect a close friend might be gay too! Gay people tend to feel attracted by each other without actually knowing for sure they’re gay. These eight easy-to-miss clues that he might actually be gay too should prove helpful for any guy in this situation.
You may also want to wait until nothing else major is going on with your family or social circle before coming out, especially if you think anyone in particular might not take it well. In other words, coming out the same week your parents announce a divorce or your sister finds out she has breast cancer may not be the best idea.
3. Finding the Words
Once you’ve decided you’re truly ready to come out, it’s time to think about what you’re going to say to each person on your list. You’ll almost definitely find that you’ll have one thing you’ll want to say to your close friends, but another to your parents or grandparents. (Don’t forget to think about what you’ll say when you tell people like your doctor as well.)
Try coming out to the easiest, most chill person in your life first (like your best friend or another good friend who’s openly gay). Then have them help you rehearse various ways to tell the other important people in your life. Just hearing the words coming out of your mouth and getting some feedback from someone you trust really helps!
4. Insensitive Reactions
Thankfully we’re living in a day and age where most people are at least used to gay people existing and living their lives out in the open. However, lots of gay men come from conservative families or religious backgrounds, meaning there’s still at least the fear of a potentially negative reaction, up to and including the following:
- “You’re just confused.” If you hear this, simply correct the person. Assure them that you’ve actually thought long and hard about not only your identity as a gay man, but about coming out as well.
- “You’re too young to know you’re gay.” There’s no such thing as too young to be aware of who you are, what you want, and who you’re attracted to. If you’re old enough to be aware of your sexual feelings (or lack thereof) to other people, you’re old enough to know whether you’re gay, straight, or anything in between.
- “I can’t respect someone who chooses that lifestyle.” First of all, people don’t “choose” to be gay. Second, being gay isn’t a lifestyle. It’s an outward expression of who you are to the same extent being straight would be for a straight person.
5. Things Not Playing Out According to Script
Even if important people in your life initially have a negative reaction to your announcement, it’s important not to let it get you down. Often, people just need some time to get used to the new status quo. Be patient with them, but don’t allow them to disrespect you or make you feel less than. Your being gay isn’t something that’s going to change, and it’s important that they understand that.
At the end of the day, it’s OK if things don’t go according to plan, because that’s just life. Seek out the necessary support if you need to and give your life time to adjust. It won’t be long before it does exactly that.