Do you hear that low rumble in the background?
It’s the collective sound of a billion closet doors being thrust open, so that their occupants can finally step out and enjoy the sun (and their sexuality).
Happy International Coming Out Day, boys and girls.
Today, if a close friend, a colleague or a sibling puts down their low-fat latte, looks you straight in the eye and tells you that they’ve got ‘something important to say to you,’ there’s a very high chance you are going to be privy to a coming out story — unless you’ve got something stuck between your front teeth, that is (so before you put on your best understanding face, do check a mirror).
Coming out is a special milestone in every gay person’s life — a coming-of-age ritual that all of us have to go through in this convoluted journey of trying to ‘find ourselves’.
The real question is, do you need to come out to be at peace with yourself?
I think so. Coming out can be difficult for a variety of reasons — the fear of people’s reactions, the stigma of being ostracised, the conflict with your religious beliefs, and the acceptance of intolerance, to just name a few — but it’s honestly refreshing. Your internal struggles feel less painful, and your life seems more beautiful.
So why this big fuss about International Coming Out Day when you can make the big announcement any day of the year?
Because if you are doing it today, you know you won’t be doing it alone. Do you want to make coming out as easy as it looks like in a Hallmark production?
Here’s a step-by-step guide to step out of the closet with ease this International Coming Out Day:
The hardest thing about coming out is accepting you as ‘you’ — which is also why the most important person to come out to, is yourself. When you do begin to realise that you are different, it’s natural to experience feelings of shame, fear and self-hatred. If you can, tie them all together and courier it half way across the world. Don’t put a return address.
The key is to be kind and patient with your self, as you would with your neighbor’s puppy — remember that it’s completely normal to have your own path of self-discovery. It might involve ice cream. It might involve a string of boys. It might involve a crate of wine. It might involve all of the above.
Once you can look into the mirror and confidently say — I’m gay. I’m bisexual. I’m trans — you’ve won half the battle.
Now go win the other half.
Make the internet your best friend, and go seek answers for all the questions you might have. Spend hours reading up about alternate sexuality. Look for LGBTIQ communities in your neighborhood. Reach out to them. Reach out to others like you (because yes, the world is teeming with fabulous folk). Soak it all in.
Just make sure you delete your cookies after.
Trust your instincts
Just like you trust your instincts when you know you’ve had one too many shots at the bar.
Start with someone who matters
Make a long list of all the people you love. Ask yourself who’d be the kindest, and the most supportive. Ask yourself who won’t punch you in the face. Ask yourself who’d plant a kiss on your cheek. It could be your sister. It could be your mother. It could be your best friend. It could be an uncle. It could be your favourite teacher from school, or even your Chemistry lab partner.
It doesn’t matter who it is, as long as you trust them. Go ahead and tell them. Be honest and open about your feelings. Enjoy the moment. Repeat the process till you’ve told everyone who counts.
Have a safety plan ready
Coming out can be an emotionally charged experience — but do know that you can never fully predict how people will react. Sometimes people will support you with all their love, and sometimes they might not (at least in the beginning).
Have a contingency plan ready for that worst-case scenario — what if you are thrown out of your home, cut off from your family or worse, cut off from your family inheritance?
Have your best friends on speed dial. Stall your coming out a bit if you think you are at high risk. Know your options (even though it will all work out in the end).
And remember that this is what your savings are for.
Figure out the first conversation
Do you have the conversation at home or at a café? Should you do it on the phone or through a text? Should you be wearing your lucky socks or a bulletproof vest?
Just like there’s no right way to eat a burger, there’s no right way to come out — it’s all about creating a comfortable environment — where both of you can have an open, honest conversation and lie snug in a blanket of feelings.
Ideally, you want the person to be relaxed — so try and avoid coming out to someone when they are stressed, busy or doing something that demands their full attention — like driving, or saving a baby from a burning building.
Or sometimes, even eating a burger with their hands tied behind their backs.
Coming out can be stressful, so the least you can do is be nice to yourself. You might not believe in Santa Claus, global warming or the current government, but you have to start learning how to believe in yourself.
Only then will people believe in you.
Don’t force yourself
If you don’t think this is the right time to take the plunge into the fag end of the pool (pun intended), then don’t. The key to coming out comfortably is not forcing yourself out of the closet. There’s always tomorrow. Or next month. Or even next year.
Take the plunge when you feel like it.
Just know that it will be refreshing.