So you think you might be gay. What’s next?
The phrase “coming out” can be defined as the disclosure of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The process of coming out allows you to further explore your own identity and share it with others. Coming out can be very difficult and it takes time but, in the end, you may feel liberated and freer to be your true self.
When Is the Right Time to Come Out?
Above all else, it’s important to come out to yourself first. If you’re in denial or not fully accepting of your own identity, it’s probably not a good time to start saying things to others. Remember, it’s not selfish to put your own mental health first. It’s also okay not to rush through the process of coming out, which can take up to several months or years. Coming out first to those you think will be supportive of you can boost your confidence from the get-go. Always be careful as to who you first decide to tell, rumors can spread fast and you don’t want to put yourself in any dangerous situations. As with any situation, there may be no ‘perfect time’ but, as long as you feel positively ready and in a safe enough environment to come out, go for it.
How Do I Come Out?
Once you’re ready to, there are many ways to go about coming out. To those closest to you, having a face-to-face conversation might work best, seeing as that may be more likely to garner a positive reaction. However, if you don’t feel as though you would be able to talk to anybody directly, writing a letter or something similar is another option. It is possible that people might have a negative reaction to your news. This is especially important when it comes to people you’re dependent on, such as your parents. It’s key to have an alternate support system in place if you fear that they might not take it well. Remember that this could come as a complete shock to some, and it’s important to give people you come out to time to take it in. There are other ways to get creative with the coming out process such as making a video, using social media sites, buying family members/friends a book, or even baking a cake!
The Stages of Coming Out
The Model of Homosexuality Identity Formation, or Cass Model, was created by psychological theorist Vivienne Cass in 1979. The model follows six general stages to the coming out process.
Stage One: Identity Confusion
People start to notice their attraction to others of the same sex and begin to really question their identity. At this point in time, people may be in denial and still consider themselves a part of the heterosexual majority.
Stage Two: Identity Comparison
In this stage, people may try to find an explanation for their feelings and begin to search for a label that fits themselves. People can feel isolated and alienated and begin to doubt themselves.
Stage Three: Identity Tolerance
People might be coming to terms with their identity, but not yet wholly embrace it. It’s likely that they will start to seek out LGBT+ people or groups as a way to learn more about their identity and explore what it means to be a part of the LGBT+ community.
Stage Four: Identity Acceptance
Past simply tolerating their identity, people are now starting to really accept who they are at this stage. They may start forming friendships with other LGBT+ people and realize that they can live a fulfilled and happy life. They might start coming out to a select few people.
Stage Five: Identity Pride
At stage five, people feel comfortable in the LGBT+ community and have pride in their identity. They will start making their identity publicly know but might harbor some negative feelings towards straight people due to injustices between the two groups. Some may feel the need to isolate themselves, while others might get involved in activism.
Stage Six: Identity Synthesis
At this final stage, their identity becomes an integrated part of who they are as a whole. People will feel comfortable around those of any orientation.
Good luck on your coming out journey!