Most of us had a childhood filled with both subtle and overt lessons of how people and things “should” be. Our family, culture, and society expect us to fit into a certain mold and behave a certain way. Because of the type of upbringing that many people experience, it can be very difficult for people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and asexual (LGBTQA) community to come out to family and friends, and to live openly as who they are.
What Does It Mean to “Come Out”?
For LGBTQA people, to “come out” is to acknowledge and let others know about their sexual or gender identity. There is no wrong way or time to come out; how, when, or if you do so is uniquely personal to you. To not come out means you’re withholding who you are from people you know and may care about, and you may have to lie and pretend. For some people, it’s less stressful to hide than to be open. Don’t feel pressure to come out; you are the only one who can decide what is the best life for you.
Coming Out as an Adult
Coming out later in life poses some unique challenges. By adulthood, many people are already established in their career and may even be married and have children. Family, friends, and co-workers see you in a certain way, and may be shaken when they realize that you are not the person they thought they knew. Not everyone you come out to will be accepting, and some relationships may permanently change.
However, if you’re ready to come out, it means you don’t want to hide anymore and are ready to enrich your life with authenticity. This will inherently bring many benefits to you and your relationships such as reduced stress from hiding your identity, increase your self-esteem by being known and loved for who you truly are, and developing richer and more genuine relationships.
What to Say
You may want to start by writing out what you want to say so you can organize your thoughts and feelings. Some people prefer to tell their loved ones face to face, while others would rather send an email or make a phone call. Whatever way you choose, be sure to come out at a time when you’re not angry or arguing with someone. Also keep in mind that if you receive a negative or less than accepting response, this is just their initial reaction; they may need additional time to process what you’ve shared with them.
Coming out is never easy. It may be difficult and awkward at first, but it will ultimately bring you joy and free you from the burden of hiding an integral part of you who are.
If you’re looking for support and guidance on coming out as an LGBTQA adult, a licensed mental health professional can help. Give my office a call today, and let’s schedule an appointment to talk.