Your best friends could probably tell you which Spice Girl or Office character you're most like better than any BuzzFeed quiz. Still, no matter how close you are to your friends, expressing your sexuality and gender identity can be pretty flipping intimidating. No matter who you are or where you're at in your own process, these tips for coming out to your friends may help you feel calm and collected as you open up to your pals.
"The 'coming-out process' is deeply personal and very much about you and not about other people," Chris Bright, director of public training for The Trevor Project tells Elite Daily. "Coming out can lead to beautiful, magical things like all of your friends accepting you, getting to date someone the way you want to, and/or getting to express your gender the exact way you want to, but we also know that some communities aren't as accepting and sometimes people come out and they loose stability and safety."
Regardless of where you are in your own queer journey, explaining your gender identity and sexuality to your friends can be a little daunting. If you're feeling ready to open up, here are six expert tips.
1. Try talking to your friends you know are affirming first.
While you're entitled to share your truth with anyone you trust, opening up to the friends who you know will be affirming can help you feel more comfortable expressing your identity.
"I think it's important to start with someone you know has been open and accepting of LGBTQ folks in the past, or someone who knows a bit about sexuality and gender identity," Jor-El Caraballo, co-creator of holistic wellness center Viva Wellness and a therapist specializing in LGBTQ clients, tells Elite Daily. "Come out to this friend first as they're likely to be affirming of your identity. They might even be helpful to support you in coming out to other friends, or important people in your life when you're ready."
2. Know that your friends may need time to process.
When I first came out as non-binary in 2013, I was literally the only non-binary person I knew (other than literal angel and indie icon Steph Knipe from my favorite band, Adult Mom). Looking back, it's clear to me that my friends were trying to be supportive, but honestly, none of us really knew what I needed from them or the best ways to move forward. It's certainly not your responsibility to educate your friends, and you never need to feel like being queer is an inconvenience. However, it can be helpful to know that after coming out, your friends may need a second to process everything.
"Not every friend will jump for joy when you come out, and that's OK," Michael Kaye, global communications manager at OkCupid and volunteer for the Human Rights Campaign tells Elite Daily. "Try to be understanding of those around you. Similar to how it took all of us some time to accept our place in the LGBTQ community, it can also take time for your friends to come to terms with this new information."
Of course, your friends making you feel ashamed or embarrassed about being who you are is never OK. If someone is making you feel bad about coming out, setting healthy boundaries, or even taking some space away from them may help you feel safe and supported in your journey. However, if you think your friends just need some time to process or if they seem open to learning more, Kaye shares that the Human Rights Campaign has some amazing educational resources for your straight and cis friends, too.
3. Coming out can be as big or as small as you want it to be.
If your coming-out story were a literal movie, you'd be the writer, director, leading actor, set designer, talent scout, and the person who hits the clapperboard and yells "action!" "Coming out doesn't have to be one large moment, you can do it on your own schedule," Kaye says. "You have the freedom to choose when and where you tell your friends, but you don't have to figure it all out by yourself."
Perhaps you want to throw a big "coming-out" party to tell all your friends at once. Maybe you want to casually tell a friend over coffee. Maybe you write it in an email to your friend who's also queer during band class in ninth grade (@ me). "Your identity is valid if you create a billboard in Times Square that says, 'I'm gay' with your picture on it. And your identity is also valid if you never tell a single soul how you identify," Marissa LaRocca, award-winning writer, speaker, and LGBTQ activist, tells Elite Daily. "No one should ever feel obligated to share with others anything they do not feel comfortable (or safe) sharing."
4. You get to decide who knows and how much they know.
"Coming out on your own terms is a way of establishing control and walking in one's power," Caraballo says. "When someone isn't allowed to exercise that power on their own, the negative impact can be devastating, even traumatic."
Don't get it twisted: Your sexuality and gender identity should not be public knowledge even after you've "come out," whether to a friend or a group of friends. Maybe you're comfortable with some of your friends knowing but not all of them. Maybe you want to use certain pronouns or names in certain spaces and other pronouns and names in other spaces. Or maybe you're comfortable with all your friends knowing, but you want to be the one to tell everyone. Whatever the case, don't be afraid to establish your boundaries. Your friends sharing your gender/sexual identity without your permission is called "outing," and it is not OK.
"Do not let anyone put you in a situation where you feel pressured to reveal a part of yourself that you are not ready to talk about publicly yet," Syd Stephenson, GLAAD Campus Ambassador and Breaking News Director for YouGoGirl OK, tells Elite Daily. "If you have friends or peers that are making you feel pressured about coming out, just be frank with them and say, 'This is not something I am ready to open up about. I need you to respect my autonomy and the authority I have over this decision.'"
5. You get to do what feels right for you at every step.
Let's be clear: You are not a burden, and your queerness is not an inconvenience to your friends. You are amazing and powerful. You are loved. And your queerness is a beautiful gift to humanity. If your friends are asking you too many questions or they're not giving you the type of support you need, it's OK to set some healthy boundaries or take some time for yourself. You don't owe anyone anything, even your friends. Your coming out is your own.
"I recommend practicing extreme self-care," Stephenson says. "Coming out can be liberating, but it can also be exhausting. It can lead to a lot of questions and attention you aren’t prepared for. I wish someone had told me that I don’t have to respond to everything after I come out. That this is my coming out and I can do it on my own terms."
6. Coming out to your friends can be scary, but worth it.
Whether you're not ready to come out to your friends or you're simply not interested in it, you never need to feel any pressure to. However, if you are trying to open up more to the people that you love, coming out to your friends can be a really amazing experience.
"Inviting someone in to your world can be a very freeing and healing experience," Caraballo says. "While it's always a good idea to be cautious, don't let fear completely stop you from living the life you were meant to live! Chances are your friends already accept you for who you are and that's why you're close to begin with."
While you never need to risk your own safety or comfort, being open and honest with your friends can be super liberating. Your friends love you and want what's best for you. Though it may take a second to fully process, coming out may ultimately bring you closer together.
Coming out to your friends can be a very special experience. Whether you tell them one at a time or all at once, expressing your identity to the people that love you can be super liberating. Of course, if you're ready or interested in telling your friends, you never need to feel the pressure. Being open about your identity is hard. Prioritizing your mental and physical well-being is always most important. If your friends aren't supportive or they're not responding how you need them to, it's OK to set some healthy boundaries and take some time for yourself. There may be no "I" in "team," but there's certainly an "I" in friend (the most earth sign statement of all time). And when it comes to coming out to your pals, you get to do whatever feels right for you.
For more stories like this one, visit Elite Daily's Coming Out page.