Whether you pen a heartwarming post or drop an "I'm queer" meme, there is no wrong way to come out online or on social media. Still, if you're thinking about expressing yourself digitally, these nine tips for coming out online may really come in handy.
"It can be appealing to come out online, knowing you'll get your message across to everyone you care about at the same time, near-instantly," Marissa LaRocca, award-winning writer, speaker, and LGBTQ+ activist, tells Elite Daily. "Some individuals might choose to come out online to a few close friends as a 'test' to build the courage to then come out in person to family members."
Though coming out looks different for everyone, opening up online can be an efficient and comprehensive way to express who you are. For McKenna Maness, sex educator and former Education and Prevention Coordinator at The Santa Cruz AIDS Project (SCAP), posting online made coming out a quicker and less nerve-wracking process. "It was much scarier to constantly have to come out to people IRL," Maness says. "I don't think I was scared to post because I was in such a moment of 'This is me.'"
If you're feeling ready to express yourself on the web, here are eight tips for coming out online.
1.You get to choose when you come out online.
Coming out is a complex process that looks different for everyone. If you're thinking about coming out, IRL or URL, you get to decide when and how you want to share your message.
"If you are not ready to come out, then don’t," Syd Stephenson, GLAAD Campus Ambassador, tells Elite Daily. "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. You will know when you are ready to come out."
As Stephenson shares, if friends or peers are making you feel pressured to come out online, it's OK to be as direct as possible. "Just be frank with them and say, 'I understand where you are coming from, but this is not something I am ready to open up about online. I need you to respect my autonomy and the authority I have over this decision,'" Stephenson says.
2. You also get to chose where you come out online.
Maybe you're ready and excited to come out on every webpage, app, and social media profile that you can access. However, if you only want to come out on certain profiles or only feel comfortable with a specific group knowing, remember that you get to choose where you post about your identity.
"When coming out online, I would suggest just doing what makes you feel the happiest and the safest," Stephenson says. "Whether that’s coming out only to your Finsta, or on your Twitter, or coming out to everyone."
If you're not ready to tell your family or you're not sure your childhood friends will be supportive, you may feel more comfortable coming out on a smaller page or your private Instagram. Additionally, you can adjust your Facebook settings to make certain posts only visible to certain people or groups. (No, spooky Aunt Sharon. I don't think you need to see me at my boo's drag show.) Of course, if you're trying to tell the whole world at once, coming out to everyone is OK, too. You get to decide how public or private you want to be with your identity — IRL and URL.
3. Post whatever feels right to you.
Whether you write a long post, share a cute photo of you and your partner, pepper in a few jokes, or keep it all short and sweet, you get to come out online in whatever way feels right for you.
"Don't feel pressured to mimic any examples of others who have come out before you — find your own way," LaRocca says. "If you feel comfortable doing so, you might consider talking a bit about how it's been a struggle to keep this secret, or you can talk about falling in love. You can tell any part of your story that feels heartfelt to you."
Though some may want to directly state their identity or share all the details or their personal experiences, you may prefer to be concise. No matter what you post or how you post it, you and your identity are valid. "I don't think I explicitly 'came out' online; I just posted a Pride pic with my girlfriend," Maness says.
4. You can respond to everyone, but you don't have to.
As Stephenson shares, coming out online can lead to some extra attention or questions from your followers. Though it may feel good to respond to everyone, Stephenson emphasizes the importance of setting some healthy boundaries.
"I got a lot of private messages asking questions (both offensive and congratulatory) when I came out," Stephenson says. "I wish someone had told me that I don’t have to respond to everything online after I come out — that this is my coming out and I can do it on my own terms."
If it's nourishing for you to engage with everyone that comments or messages you about your identity, by all means, hit "reply," baby. However, if you're feeling overwhelmed or tired, or you want to respond to some people and not others, it's your coming out, and you get to do it in your own way.
5. People may tell other people.
At risk of sounding like a high-school health teacher, if you put someone on the web — even in a hidden group or private page — there's a chance of it getting out. While exposing someone's gender and/or sexual identity is not OK, it's important to consider that people may screenshot your post or verbally talk about what they saw.
"Sometimes 'coming out' can lead to beautiful, magical, wonderful things, but we also know that some communities aren't as accepting and people get kicked out of their homes or they loose stability and safety," Chris Bright, director of public training for The Trevor Project tells Elite daily. "Each individual has to figure out what's at stake for them and what feels the safest and most comfortable in their process."
You are a flawless angel and you can express yourself in whatever way feels right for you. Still, if you're thinking about coming out online, it may be important to consider what you need to stay safe and supported IRL.
6. Take some IRL time and space for yourself.
Coming out online may demand some IRL preparations. "Build yourself up as much as possible before you come out to anyone by listening to your favorite music, journaling, making a list of all your strengths and all the things you love about yourself, and spending time with people who accept you for who you authentically are," LaRocca says. "This will empower you to handle any negative feedback gracefully and constructively."
While getting ready to post is an important practice, Stephenson shares that taking care of yourself after coming out online can be paramount, too. "Coming out on such a public platform can be liberating, but it can also be exhausting," Stephenson says. "It can lead to a lot of questions and attention you aren’t prepared for, which can vary depending on the social media platform. When I came out — first as queer, then as trans — I got a lot of mixed attention. This was mentally draining and something I was not prepared for."
Whether you go for a jog, sing in the shower, take a nap with your cat, or ask your best friend to tell you everything they love about you, getting mentally prepared may help you feel calm and supported before and after you come out online.
7. It's OK if some people just don't get it.
As Stephenson shares, coming out online may open yourself up to some unwanted comments or attention. Though it's never OK for someone to make you feel unsafe or ashamed for being yourself (and there are resources out there for you), LaRocca attests it's essential to understand that some people just may not get it.
"Some people just won't have the capacity to be supportive or loving toward you, and that's OK," LaRocca says. "Remind yourself that everyone is at a different level when it comes to their own psychological, emotional, and spiritual development. More than likely, people like this struggle to love themselves, or they are hiding pieces of themselves and envy you for having the courage to reveal your truth."
While it may feel good to educate your friends and family, you also don't need to feel solely responsible for their learning. You never need to hide or feel shame about being who you are. If people don't really get it or aren't supportive or loving to you, it's OK to give them a big "thank u, next."
8. But you need to prioritize your safety and well-being.
Let me preface by saying that you are a flawless angel and the world is a better place with you in it. Still, if you're thinking about coming out online, LaRocca shares the importance of prioritizing your physical and emotional well-being. "We all want to come out and receive nothing but support and encouragement and rainbows and butterflies," LaRocca says. "But let's be real, you could be met with a few responses that will feel hurtful or damaging to you. So just be prepared."
LaRocca attests that while it's important to come out in whatever way feels right for you, having an IRL plan regarding your mental health (i.e., having a friend to call if you're feeling low or arranging for a place to stay if your family isn't making you feel welcome) can make you feel more supported. "Never, ever put yourself in harm's way," LaRocca says. "Prioritize your own peace, safety, and sanity."
9. Remember you and your identity are valid, no matter what.
From my own experience, I know that seeing a ton of other amazing queer people be out on the internet can be super empowering and encouraging. However, it also can make you feel like you're not "queer enough" if you're not publicly out and posting about your identity. Remember: You get to come out on your own timeline and you get to post (or not post) about your identity however you want. Whether you like to share about your gender or sexuality every day or you prefer to keep things a bit more private, you and your identity are valid. Being "out" on the internet means doing whatever feels right for you.
Whether you share your story on a blog or use social media to tell your friends and family, your identity is yours. You get to decide how to express it. If you're feeling ready to come out on the internet, try doing some nice things for yourself IRL, before and after. From taking a bath to calling a friend, having a support system in place may help you feel loved and cared for. Of course, you get to choose who you tell, as well as what, where, and how you tell them. When it comes to coming out online, you get to decide how to keep everyone posted.
For more stories like this one, visit Elite Daily's Coming Out page.