Coming out can often be a difficult process. Even if you know your family is progressive or accepting, the idea of getting your biggest personal epiphany off your chest is daunting. Coming out is nerve-wracking because it can be uncomfortable or even dangerous. And no matter what, you're stepping into uncharted territory with your friends, family, and peers. While homophobia and transphobia are very real forces, sometimes an encouraging word is all a queer person needs. If you're looking for the best advice for your friend who’s coming out, it's key to remind them that their queerness is their own to define.
From my own experience, the stigma of being queer and the uncertainty of what life will be like after coming out holds can make a queer person's sense of self murky. I know that reassurance from fellow queer people (whether on YouTube or IRL) was the biggest element in me finally feeling comfortable enough to share my bisexuality with the world.
As I continue to come out, that reassurance still makes all the difference. It's the reminders that my identity is valid, the solace in knowing I'll turn out OK, and the tangible hope that one day, no one will give me the side-eye for holding the hand of someone who's not a cisgender man.
I reached out to a couple of my friends in the LGBTQ+ community about the advice that carried them through coming out. Their answers were as complex and far-reaching as the process itself. Some bits of counsel were about the timing, or who you do (and don't) have to tell. Others were just kind words to give queer folks peace of mind. Here are seven LGBTQ+ people on the advice that helped the most on their coming out journey.
Your Family Will Warm Up Over Time
The best advice got from queer friends when I came out at 19 is that it’s probably a bigger deal for you than it ever is for them. Coming out can be a self-conscious process, and it’s good to remember that your loved ones just want you to be happy. Even if they don’t accept it initially, they’re likely to warm up to it later and give you the support you need when coming out. Sometimes it takes awhile. But if it’s hard now, the cliché still stands: It gets better.
- Sarah, 23
It's OK To Be Unsure
I don't remember who told me or if I read about it somewhere, but I suffered a lot from 'not being 100 percent sure about it' before coming out. Then I realized I don't owe anyone being 100 percent sure. It's OK to come out saying, 'I don't know yet, but these are the things I know I am/I am not. Know that they may change.' It's still a coming out and people should understand and support you the same.
- Oliver, 22
The More You Come Out, The Easier It Will Get
It doesn’t have to be a big ordeal or a deep convo. It just needs to be on your terms — whenever and to whomever. Just do it and know it gets a little bit easier every time.
- Mohona, 23
Present Yourself However You Feel Comfortable
The best advice I have received about coming out is that there's no one way to look queer. How you represent yourself is completely personal and neutral — even though dressing "too masculine" feels stereotypical and dressing "too feminine" feels invalidating at times, based on people's assumptions of you or your own assumptions of what people are assuming.
- Sophie, 26
Safety Is Key To Your Well-Being
The best advice I’ve gotten about coming is:
1. If you’re not sure how your parents gonna react, do it after you’re financially independent from them. This way if they disown you, you won’t be suffering financially.
2. You don’t have to come out to anyone! As told in Love, Simon, straight people don't have to come out so why do we? This doesn’t mean that we’re hiding it — I’ll say it when it comes up, but I’m not obligated to tell everyone I meet I’m queer / bi, ya feel?
- Zach*, 21
Self-Care And Chosen Family Can Go A Long Way
Genderqueer transfemme here. I've had some wonderfully supportive and wise friends! Take risks safely! Be as bold and creative as you want in your expressions to find out what feels right for you, while putting your physical and emotional safety first.
Seek out queer friends and be willing to take the first step towards connecting. Build a new chosen family carefully, whether your biological family is supportive or not.
Be kind to yourself! Treat yourself like you would treat a dear friend who is beginning to explore their identity. There may still be days that you hate what you see in the mirror, and it's OK to be sad and angry. Make a list of comfort foods, activities, and places that make you feel good, and try to do at least one every day.
- Seán, 34
Remind Them That They're Valid, No Matter What
Coming out is for yourself. Coming out can bring a lot of pride and self-liberation and easier access to community. But it’s not always all sunshine and rainbows. It’s can take a lot of labor in reality, sadly. Remember coming out is your own. It might look different than popular narratives of coming out. And that’s OK. It’s your identity. It’s 1000 percent OK for it to be about you. Not coming out or changing how you come out or view yourself over time also doesn’t make your own identity any less valid. Try and have patience and grace with yourself. At the end, do what feels good to you.
- Anna, 23
Whether you're the friend who'll be giving advice or the one who needs it, these nuggets of wisdom are important to keep with you as you embark on one of the biggest personal journeys in your life.