Coming out is sometimes one of the hardest things you have to do. It’s a personal journey of understanding, accepting and then sharing one’s sexual orientation or gender identity with others in your life. For some, this experience might be an exciting one, for others, it might be overwhelming or even frightening. At the same time, coming out is not always a one-time event, and might require the person to come to different people at different times in their life.
There are millions of thoughts and feelings you might be experiencing right now. And, one of the most daunting thoughts is the fear of being rejected, or losing the love of your family. It’s not easy, but remember that it will take some time for the people closest to you, to understand and adjust.
Why should you come out?
Firstly, the decision to come out, for most people, is all about being honest with the people closest to you. It’s a struggle, and is painful, to hide how you truly feel from your loved ones. It can feel pressurising, and can take your focus away from the other important aspect of your life, such as your job or studies. You might be in a point in your life where you need someone to talk to, either to gain support or to feel like a weight has been lifted.
Whatever it may be, all you need to remember is that there is no rush. You need to be comfortable with the decision. Come out when you feel ready. And finally, wanting to tell your parents and loved ones, does not mean you have to tell the world.
Are there any reasons why you should not come out?
The only reason why you might consider not telling is when your safety is threatened. If you feel that your parents disapprove of the community or are homophobic, precautions need to be taken or you shouldn’t tell them yet. Similarly, sometimes parents who have an inkling about you might think that threatening you will “scare you straight.” While sometimes such ‘threats’ might not be serious, it still needs to be considered and taken seriously.
Another important aspect is your emotions. Would you be able to handle the possible negative reactions? When parents find out an unexpected truth about your life, they might not always receive the news with open arms. Instead, they might be in shock and react negatively. Their comments and questions can sound brutal. However, they often don’t mean it and end up regretting what they said later. If you feel that you aren’t strong enough to handle such a situation, then you might want to reconsider.
Finally, consider your financial and physical dependency. If you are still dependent on your parents for these things, then telling them might mean losing support. Your parents’ could throw you out or refuse to give any form of financial support. In such situations, you might want to consider postponing until you are self-sufficient.
So you have decided to tell your parents. How should you tell them?
Here are some tips to take into consideration before you tell them.
1. Timing is everything:
There is no such thing as the perfect or best time. However, having a multi-tasking conversation, or talking to them amidst an event, argument or crisis, is not the right decision. This is a very important discussion and deserves its own dedicated time. It is private and intimate. Whether it is you or your parents, it deserves complete attention. Also, your parents will need time to understand and absorb what you are telling them. And finally, they might have a lot of questions to ask you.
2. Choose the right place:
Choose a comfortable environment, a location where you can have this intimate conversation without distractions or interruptions.
3. How to tell them:
It is not always necessary to be in person, to have this conversation. And while this is preferred, you can always tell them through a phone call or text or even email. Coming out to your parents also depends on practicality and your own safety. Sometimes, writing down all your thoughts on an email will give you a chance to say everything you would like to, without being interrupted. Your parents can also read the email multiple times to mentally accept what you have written.
4. What to tell them:
You need to know what you want to say. Write down all your thoughts and think about the different things you want them to know. It is a way of having pointers, or a script just to guide you through the conversation. Strong Family Alliance has a script that you can refer to. Just remember to firstly, prepare them. Dropping hints that you want to have a conversation with them, about something important, is a good start. Empathize with them and warn them that it might not be something they expected. Finally, be honest and speak from your heart.
5. Be ready for any reaction:
Teen Vogue said it best, “Remember that you have had your entire life to come to terms with your sexuality, but your parents may not have given it much thought before you broached the topic with them.” It could be a complete shocker for your parents, especially if they think, they knew and understood you. Hence, their initial reaction might be negative or bombarding you with a lot of questions. It will take time for them to accept reality, and you need to give them that time and space.
6. Be prepared to answer questions:
Your parents might have a lot of questions to ask you. There are a lot of resources out there on the most common questions parents might ask. The most important thing is to be prepared mentally to help them better understand your feelings. Give them time and answer their concerns. Assure them that you are happy and healthy. Focus on the positives. And it is absolutely natural that even you might not have all the answers.
7. Give them resources or educational material:
It always helps, if you could give your parents resources that help them understand the community and you better. You parents might be scared, misinformed, or worry about your safety and how others might react. Since you don’t have the answer to all of their questions, give them materials that will help them. These could be videos, books, articles, etc. For example, ‘What To Do When Your Kid Comes Out To You’.
8. You can set boundaries:
Coming out to your parents does not mean coming out to the world. You can definitely tell your family that this is something you don’t want others to know until you are prepared. You need to have the freedom to decide when, where and how you want to tell others.
Finally, and most importantly, remember that everything will be alright. Hang in there and give it time. You have come a long way and it takes courage, to be honest, and open.
Source Credit: Changing Attitude, Healthy Children, Huffpost, Planned Parenthood, Psychology Today, Stonewall, Teen Vogue, Them.