I had the richest of conversations with a young woman who had recently come out to her family. Although telling her parents and siblings she was gay went fairly smoothly, she spoke about an experience shortly afterwards that occurred to which she was unsure of how to respond. She noted that she had been at a social gathering at her parents home and an acquaintance of her parents, in the process of small talk, asked her if she had a boyfriend. Although she answered truthfully that she didn’t, she stated that it made her feel uncomfortable and felt some internal dissonance – she wanted to be true to herself, but was not sure what to say in that moment, and how to say it.
In exploring all the ins and outs of her recent experience, we were able to come up with some thoughts about finding your comfort zone when coming out:
- Give yourself permission to have a private life. We all have a level in which we feel open to sharing. Regardless of where you sit on that continuum, it is okay to honour your sense of privacy when sharing with others details of your private life, including your sexual orientation.
- Think about who it is that’s asking. Is this person part of your support circle? Just making small talk? Are they being nosy? How important is it for the young woman, in that moment, to share that she is gay? If it doesn’t feel right, perhaps the context is wrong, or her comfort level is not lining up with full disclosure. Understand that it is okay to wait until it does feel right.
- Find avenues to share that fits your comfort zone. Not everyone you tell is going to be supportive and loving (although you would certainly hope so). In order to protect yourself from someone’s immediate reaction, think about sharing in ways that provide some space for absorption, such as an email, or asking someone in your support circle to share on your behalf. This is perfectly acceptable as a way for you to find your comfort zone in telling others that you are gay.
- Remind yourself that other people’s reactions are not yours to carry. It may take some for people in your life to process their feelings – and that is okay. At the end of the day, they need to love you for who you are; not for their expectations of who you are.
- Remember that being true to yourself is one of the pillars of self-actualization and growth. I felt proud of this young woman who had navigated this important process with confidence, despite some understandable nervousness.
Coming out can be a fearful process- you are potentially putting a lot on the line. Finding your comfort zone will help you to feel grounded and safe; as your experiences of sharing grows, so will your confidence in being true to yourself.