Coming Out + Being ‘Out’
Whether you’ve already had sex with men, or you’ve just started to consider the possibility, making sense of your sexuality and being able to share it with others is an important aspect of a healthy and fulfilling life. It might be one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do and may require time and careful planning, but “coming out” opens a world of opportunity to live openly and happily as a gay or bisexual man.
Things to Consider About Coming Out
Most gay or bisexual men who have ‘come out’ will tell you that coming out is a lifelong process, and regardless of how easy or difficult, there is no right or wrong way to do it. Accepting and telling others that you are gay or bisexual is an extremely personal and life changing decision that should be done in your own way and on your own terms.
Stereotypes about gay men are everywhere – in TV and movies, in sports and in churches, and in our schools and our homes. While there is growing acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, including a scientific consensus that being gay is not a choice, misinformation and ignorance about the gay community persist.
It’s important to remember that coming out as a gay or bisexual guy doesn’t have to mean anything you don’t want it to. Many gay men go on to have families, including stable relationships and having children of their own. Being gay or bisexual doesn’t have to define who you are – it’s simply a part of who you are.
Embarking on your own coming out process:
Choosing to come out or be open about your sexuality does not mean you have to be ‘out’ at all times or in all places. It can be easier to start by telling close friends than by telling family. It’s not uncommon, even for men who consider themselves to be ‘out’, to only be out to a certain group of people (i.e. friends) but not others (i.e. extended family).
Giving yourself time to plan and process your feelings is really important. It’s not necessary to tell everyone in your life at once; take your time and don’t push yourself. Throughout the coming out process, it’s common to feel a tremendous range of emotions, and don’t be surprised if your feelings are mixed and conflicted.
If you don’t feel like you have anyone that you can talk to, consider talking to a counsellor or support worker at HIM about how you are feeling in a confidential and safe space:
If you happen to know others that are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, consider asking them to share their coming out experiences. The Internet is a great place to find coming out stories – hearing about someone else’s struggle and perseverance regarding their experience telling others about their sexuality can be a tremendous source of inspiration. Get started by checking out these guys’ stories.
You might find it helpful to access resources such as a counsellor or an LGBT support group to talk to. They can help you navigate this complicated and messy process, and help you determine a safe coming out process.
Sharing with Family
Realizing that you might be gay or bisexual does not mean that you must come out to your family – at least not before you’re ready to. While it’s natural to want to be open and be accepted by your family, it’s important to look out for your own security and well being in case their response is hurtful or hostile. If you suspect that your family will force you out of the house or cut off other types of financial support, you may want to wait until they don’t have this power over you.
Avoid coming out in the middle of an argument or out of anger or spite – adding heated and negative emotions to an already sensitive discussion will make it more difficult to be heard and respected. If you decide to tell family, think about someone who you can trust to support you in your family. If you think a brother, sister, or cousin will take it easier than others in your family, start there.
Dealing with Loss
Many gay and bisexual men experience emotional pain from rejection after coming out, and it’s important to remember that you don’t have to deal with it alone. Surrounding yourself with accepting and positive people will make it easier for you to talk through your pain.
Confiding in others with similar experiences can be really helpful, and releasing your coming out wounds can help you move on to a healthy and fulfilling life as a gay person. This takes time and courage, but the relief that comes from sharing and knowing that others have dealt with similar challenges is well worth it.