How Do I Know When to Come Out?
This is a question most of us lesbian, gay and bi people ask ourselves at some point. And there is not one answer that fits all scenarios.
I've been doing a lot of reflecting lately, and at times I wonder if certain chapters in my life would have been easier if I would have been willing to come out of the closet sooner than I did.
Then I remind myself: I came out as soon as I felt like I could. As soon as it was safe. And as soon as I realized I had to because I owed it to myself.
Sure, if I was the person then that I am now, I would have come out years earlier than I did. But, I wasn't. I was me at that time. A girl, turned into a young woman who was afraid and was doing the best she could.
There is no rushing the process. Some people's transition time between self-identification as gay, lesbian, bi, or anything other than hetero and the time they come out is shorter than others. Mine was a long and sometimes difficult road.
One answer to the "when do I come out" question that I believe is a good answer is this: You come out when the pain of NOT coming out is worse than anticipated pain of coming out. As Ash Beckham stated in her interview with TWBP: "Everyone hits a point in their life when they MUST come out, consequences be damned". She also makes a great point about evaluating your surroundings in terms of safety.
Some gay and lesbian people simply cannot come out, due to risk of physical, mental, or emotional harm. Others may be afraid but have at least one person to turn to. As Ash Beckham stated in our interview, "Assess the safety of your situation. If you have allies, get them lined up. Use all the resources in your community to make it that easier".
I don't mean to imply that coming out is hard for everyone. However, I think for most people, there are degrees of pain and struggle, even if you have the "perfect" environment to come out in. What I am suggesting is that we have compassion for ourselves. This is different for everyone, but for me it was allowing myself to simply be ok with my best. And today it means loving that 24 year-old girl who was brave enough to say her truth out loud.
When you do come out, know that you can never be fully prepared. You may find judgement where you least expected it. On the flip side, you will also find love, acceptance and affirmation in places you never thought would be possible. I promise you that.
If you already came out, acknowledge the courage it took to come out when you did. Even if it wasn't exactly the way or in the situation that you would have liked. You did it exactly when you were meant to.
I know it's cliche, yet I believe it: So today I'm just here to remind you that you are exactly where you need to be.
Until next time!