For LGBTQ+ Community, Coming Out Can Be Emotionally Difficult

For members of the LGBTQ+ community, coming out to family members and friends can be a difficult and challenging process.

My own coming out experience was a mixed bag. My close circle of friends knew about my sexual orientation, but I still had to shut parts of myself off from most of my social circle, including my family. While my personal story is not as severe as others in the community, there were definite moments where I felt pressure to hide my authentic self.

Coming out is truly a brave and emotional experience – one that is not easy at all for many within the community. While identifying as LGBTQ+ is becoming less stigmatized, the negative backlash still does exist.

In fact, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “LGBTQ individuals are almost three times more likely than others to experience a mental health condition such as major depression or generalized anxiety disorder. This fear of coming out and being discriminated against for sexual orientation and gender identities, can lead to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, thoughts of suicide and substance abuse.”

If you’re struggling with how to come out to the people in your life, these are some of the guidelines offered by the Human Rights Campaign:

  1. Be Open with Yourself – Sometimes, it feels scary to break the mold your environment or family may have set for how you “should” be – whether it’s aligning with different sex attraction or a specific gender identity. Open up to yourself first – you are the most important piece of this experience.
  2. Telling Others – When individuals decide to come out, often, they want to stop hiding who they are. It might be a scary step telling others, but it is important to live an open and authentic life. This can help reduce personal stress and help build self-esteem. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to come out. Do what works for you.
  3. Make a Plan and Have the Conversations – Be aware of who you are coming out to and know how to say what you truly wish to express. While everyone’s reaction to your coming out may be different, it’s important to recognize who may or may not be accepting at first. This can help prepare you for the reaction you may receive and guide you in determining who you want to come out to first.
  4. Telling Family Members – This can be the hardest step for some individuals. If you are under the age of 18 or financially dependent on your parents, it is important to consider your options and decide what works best from there. This is very big news to share with your family and the reactions can range from accepting and having known to being angry.
  5. Living Out and Proud on Your Terms – Being out and proud comes with its benefits. You can develop closer and honest relationships, build personal self-esteem and make connections with others in the LGBTQ+ community. However, there are still risks of open discrimination, harassment and not having complete acceptance. Remember, you are the only one who oversees your coming out experience – know when it is right for you and keep it on your terms. Know that your experience can help impact younger LGBTQ+ individuals who are scared to come out to accepting who they are.

If you feel it’s not an option to come out to your social circle, it might be helpful to talk to your primary care physician or a mental health provider. Talking through your concerns and fears with an objective third party can help you put them in perspective so you can move forward in a productive way.

It’s important to recognize that you are not alone in your coming out journey. Here are some Michigan resources that can help you with any mental, emotional and social support needed. It is crucial to be aware of these options if you have any trouble moving toward coming out.

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Photo credit: Tommy Lee Walker

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