During my first year in college, I presented a paper to my social movements class that hinged on my personal experience marching in a Pride parade the year before. Standing in front of the lecture hall of roughly two hundred students, I was essentially coming out to my entire university in one go, and I thought I might faint. “Coming out” has long been considered a single, momentous event — an event that can be incredibly stressful thanks to fears of losing friends or family, or even facing violence.
Social media has provided a new option that can feel a lot safer. Rather than one big coming out, you can “soft-launch” your sexuality in a slow drip, from adding a rainbow emoji to your bio to making references that will only be significant to other LGBTQ+ folks.
The concept of soft-launching comes from the business world and works like a test drive, allowing you to work out the kinks before going big. “Soft-launching lets you have more control over who sees and responds to whatever you're sharing. So, if any unexpected problems arise, you'll be aware of them before they reach the majority of your audience. Soft-launching also just feels safer and more secure, because you're in more control of who sees it and how it gets out there,” explains online marketing and social media expert Sarah Giffrow, the Creative Director of Upswept Creative.
The Benefits Of Soft-Launching Your Sexuality
A soft launch of your gender or sexuality can be easier on your mental health — unlike my near-fainting experience. “Coming out is tough,” says Claire Holt, a TikTok creator whose video about soft-launching your sexuality has more than 35,000 views. “It’s not only difficult but just unnecessary to sit down with every person you know and come out to them one at a time. With the soft launch, you can get the news out that you’re queer without having to go through all the painful in-person conversations with people you don’t even know that well.”
The benefit of avoiding repeated coming out conversations can’t be overstated. “[Soft-launching] lets people make the assumption without you having to do the emotional labor of coming out,” says Marla Renee Stewart, MA, Sexologist and Sexual Strategist at Velvet Lips Sex Ed and Co-Founder of the Sex Down South Conference.
Many people tell Elite Daily that a soft launch can reduce the stress of coming out. Kaeli Meno, a writer and director from Alaska, says her soft-launch lowered the stakes of coming out. “I think making a big announcement, for me, felt like a lot of pressure and I didn’t want to handle that,” she says.
Meno also struck on another important benefit: There’s no need to pick a label. “I still struggle to label exactly how I feel. And by soft-launching it, there was an ability to be open about it without opening myself up to people questioning why I felt that way. I think if I like ‘came out’ in the traditional sense, my parents would have a lot of thoughts and opinions that may impact how I view myself. I definitely don’t have it all figured out right now, and know that if I [had] that kind of pressure, I might conform to what they think I should be instead of what I am,” says Meno.
Plus, you might be able to fly under the radar of certain viewers. Stewart says, “[O]lder folks might not tap into the meanings of what you're posting and therefore, you don't have to answer to them, and you'll be able to find community easily or have community come to you.” And Holt adds, “[Y]ou’re able to signal to queer people you’re queer, which is great for your dating prospects.”
Soft-launching your sexuality has benefits for your friends and loved ones, too. “Coming out slowly is beneficial because it gives people the opportunity to get used to the concept that their loved one may be different than what they realize,” says Stewart. “It also allows people to do research for themselves, without you having to be the dictionary of all things queer.”
Design Your Own Soft Launch
Now’s the chance to be your own personal PR firm and create a unique soft launch strategy that’s right for you. Giffrow suggests taking advantage of social media flexibility, and considering what platforms and tools you want to use. She says, “Maybe you'll come out to your TikTok followers before you mention it on Facebook. You can also try sharing it with a limited group in your audience.” (Like on Instagram Stories with your Close Friends.)
As you’re deciding what to share, and where, here are some strategies and content suggestions to get your ideas flowing.
Start With Your Bio
Several of our experts suggest dropping a rainbow emoji 🌈 or rainbow flag emoji 🏳️🌈 in your bio. Although this might sound less than subtle, rainbows are popular enough these days that they can come across as just a bit of colorful flair to anyone not looking for deeper meaning.
Consider Your Pronouns
If you’re currently listing pronouns in your bio that no longer feel like a good fit, you can start by removing them and not replacing them with anything else. When you’re ready, you can add new pronouns to your bio. For some folks, adding multiple options feels like an easier first step — for example, saying “she/they” before transitioning fully to “they/them.”
Repost From Other Accounts
Sharing content from other sources, especially to your Instagram Story where it will disappear in 24 hours, is another good step. Holt suggests “Happy Pride” posts or anything news-related concerning LGBTQ+ folks.
Share Relevant Books, Music, Movies, and Television
Several of our experts pointed out that sharing your favs — from movies to music — is likely to resonate with the audience you’re looking for while being ignored by others. Holt suggests, “Posting songs from openly queer artists like Kehlani, girl in red, [or] Clairo.”
- “Heartstopper, [by Alice Oseman,] a wholesome graphic novel series about high schooler rugby players falling in love and discovering themselves, now made more popular by an excellent Netflix adaptation.
- Gender Queer, [by Maia Kobabe,] the most-banned book in America right now, and a heartfelt memoir about gender identity, asexuality, and coming out.
- My Brother's Husband, a girthy manga by Gengoroh Tagame (best known for his 20-year career drawing much spicier adult manga works) a heartwarming story about two men confronting homophobia and learning how to be family, mediated by a sweet little girl and her love of Japanese food.”
Pryde points out, “These titles are all mainstream enough to be popular with general audiences, but paired with a rainbow in your profile and a Wildfang cap, those in the know will get the message.”
Soft-Launching Other Identities
Once you’re on the soft launch train, you don’t need to stop with sexuality. “[People] may want to soft launch being ethically non-monogamous, or being part of the kink scene. Posting articles about these identities can help you see who is and isn't supportive of certain ideologies — at least conceptually,” says L. Kris Gowen, Ph.D., sexuality educator and co-host of the podcast B4U Swipe.
“Felt Gay, Might Delete Later.”
Nothing you post to your social media needs to stay there — you’re allowed to change your mind at any time, and as many times as you want. Identity is fluid, and your comfort level with sharing can change over time, too.
Social media bios are especially easy to edit. Your changes don’t leave a trace and your additions and subtractions may go unnoticed, which makes bios a great soft-launch starting point. Even posts to your feed can be deleted if you no longer feel good about having them up. A soft launch is a test run; changing your mind or adjusting your strategy isn’t a failure, it’s part of the process.
Soft-launched or otherwise, you’re under no obligation to come out at all. There are plenty of valid reasons to keep your gender or sexuality to yourself — including personal preference. Whether or not you start dropping rainbow emojis and Hayley Kiyoko lyrics, just know this — you’re not alone.
Claire Holt, TikTok creator
Sarah Giffrow, Creative Director & Benevolent Overlord of Upswept Creative
L. Kris Gowen, PhD, EdM, sexuality educator and podcast co-host of B4U Swipe
Katie Pryde, owner of Books with Pictures