During Pride Month and throughout the year, we honor thousands of LGBTQ+ individuals who have “come out” into the public eye. For many, if not most, of us in the LGBTQ+ community ”coming out” to our family and friends may be one of the most emotional and difficult things we’ll ever do.
I am sharing my story with the hope that it will help build compassion and understanding among the wider community about what a difficult and courageous act this can be.
Uncertainty and fear can be the biggest obstacles to coming out. These two words create all-consuming thoughts like “Will those around me still accept me after they find out?”
Coming out to a parent could mean a child is kicked out of the house… or it could result in hugs and support. Coming out to a coworker could mean being excluded from the best projects… or that nothing changes at all. Friends who have known you for years may pretend you never said it… effectively cutting off a core part of who you are and making it no longer acceptable to be yourself with them.
The best thing someone can do during this period is to prepare a safe environment by identifying resources that could be lost if individuals are not accepting and securing replacements for those resources.
I remember telling myself that I would come out to friends and family when the timing was right. However, as most people in the LGBTQ+ community know, there is never truly a “right” time.
In June of 2020, I came out to my parents after I had finished college. Before doing so, I made sure I had a place of my own and all bills were in my name. I did this to ensure that if things didn’t go well I would be able to support myself. Luckily, my coming out went better than I expected: my parents assured me that they accepted who I was and that they just wanted me to live a happy and healthy life as my true self.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
While Pride Month is a great time to celebrate coming out, many LGBTQ+ individuals are not yet ready or able to safely do so. Every person’s situation and circumstances are unique and everyone deserves to write their own coming out story.
As an ally to someone coming out, it is important to recognize how scary and sensitive this time is for that person. The best thing you can do is to whole-heartedly be there for that individual. Even if you don’t completely understand what/who they are coming out as, be someone who is willing to affirm and pass no judgement on their decision. Be someone who doesn’t love them “despite” being LGBTQ+ but “because” of who they are. Be someone with whom that individual can feel safe to be their authentic selves at all times, not just this once.
Because coming out is not just a one-time experience. Pride Month may serve as a good opportunity to celebrate someone’s coming out for the first time but, unfortunately, it is just the beginning of a life-long process. To every new friend, coworker, or individual that comes into our lives, we will have to come out in order to be our authentic selves.
The following affirmations have made it easier for me and others in the LGBTQ+ community:
No matter where you are on your journey of coming out remember that you, as an individual, deserve to be loved and respected for who you truly are.
Never feel pressured to have to come out if you aren’t ready or comfortable.
Sometimes your blood family isn’t your chosen family.
The people who love and accept you as you are should be the ones you keep close and cherish the most.
Over time, it has gotten easier. Each and every time I tell people that I identify as a gay man, I feel like I grow in confidence. For some, though, this process creates constant anxiety and becomes tiresome and frustrating. That’s why it is so important, both for allies and members of the LGBTQ+ community, to try to create safe and welcoming environments in which everyone feels like they belong.
Authored by Eric Lopez.