Coming Out: The Plan

I’ve come out to many people in many ways. I’ve received a wide variety of reactions; thankfully I’ve made it through the bad ones, and still cherish the good ones. Here are five points I wish I would’ve had as a coming out plan (not that I ever had a plan in the first place).

1. Think it through.

All I want to do is just come out to everyone all the time! But most people don’t care or need to hear this. Those that do are sometimes not ready, even though you are, or vice-versa.

It’s also better to know what you are going to say so it comes out clear and understandable, and you get everything out in the right order. I’ve certainly gotten tongue tied a few times when caught unawares and inadvertently try to explain my identity to people. Even though I live and breathe these ideas online, it is sometimes difficult to say it in person, in front of a real person!

Now, all of this does not discount spontaneous coming out – if you feel comfortable in the moment and it seems appropriate, go ahead and tell the person.

2. Be resourceful.

Use the resources that are out there, both for yourself and for the person you are coming out to. Sometimes telling a close loved one of your sexuality and/or gender affects them very much – they’ll be very hurt, get very sad and depressed, they won’t know how to deal with it, and usually they want to keep it a secret which means they’ll have no one to talk to about it.

Try to provide them with resources, especially books or online forums, that they can look into in their own time and absorb at their own pace. They might also be too shy or embarrassed to get the book themselves, so it’s a tremendous help if you reach out and hand it to them on a silver platter. If they don’t read it, then at least you did your best. Tell them about others who know about you that they can talk to, if that’s an option.

3. Be ready.

This goes for yourself as well as others. Try to come out only to people who are ready to hear it. That is, they know you deep enough or long enough, are close to you, and you are pretty sure they won’t reject you. Avoid coming out to those who are not ready. I may be a coward, but it’s my philosophy that if you know there is a pit of snakes in there, don’t jump right into it, you’ll only get hurt and probably won’t get anything out of it. There are always exceptions, but that’s why those are called exceptions. If you must come out to somebody who you think is not ready (for instance, your parents) then re-read the next step.

4. Expect the worst.

This doesn’t mean the worst will happen, or to think in apocalyptic terms. Often the worst is simply the unexpected, so if you are prepared it won’t be so bad. Just think through the many reactions each person would have, and ask yourself if you are ready to deal with a bad reaction. If you aren’t, give it more time. If you’re ready, take the steps to prevent the worst from happening.

A few people I came out to really truly understood. Actually only two, the closest two I have, and I really didn’t have to come out to them because, in a way, they already knew.

But people will often not understand. Don’t expect people to understand, but do tell them what you expect of them after coming out. If someone isn’t very close to you, chances are they won’t care enough to learn, to come to that full understanding we all yearn. But hopefully they’ll care enough that they’ll respect you, and even trust you a little more since you shared a part of you with them. Don’t get frustrated, some will never understand. However, don’t despair, keep correcting them, be open to questions, and the day that they do say, hey, I want to learn more, let them know you’ll gladly help.

Now, if you must come out to someone who will probably not understand and get very very upset, then here are some good pointers:

  • Have people there to support you, and if possible, present in the same room. It makes the upset person more afraid to be mean to you, and de-affirms their claims that you’re crazy/wrong/etc.
  • If you want, write a letter beforehand. This will give you a chance to explain everything, lay out all of your cards before you get interrupted and it spirals down into a screaming argument, and gives them time to digest the shock and information.
  • It is especially important to write out or tell them what you expect of them: please respect me; this is not a phase, and if it is let me live it and find my own way; I don’t expect you to understand right now, but I do expect you to try.
  • If they are not getting it, don’t drown them in information; don’t try to over-explain things, use terms that are unfamiliar to them, or reveal your innermost thoughts and feelings.
  • Do emphasize points such as: you want my happiness, this makes me happy; I am not doing this to hurt you or me or anyone; there are others like me, and like you (point to resources for family and friends); I still love you, and I know you still love me.
  • If they’re not ready, they’re not ready. They are probably going to take it the wrong way, no matter what you say. Remember, they’re already defensive as it is, and you’re putting them on the spot. Don’t try too hard to convince them of anything right now, and try not to get into a shouting match, even if they provoke you.

Of course, there will always be people who will never ever understand, and you may or may not be in the position that you have to come out to them. In that case, be ready for total rejection. It’s sad, but it’s the reality. Be prepared and look for people around who can support you. If you’re reading this, then you already know someone.

5. Be patient.

Be patient with yourself – take your time to write out your thoughts, plan on what you will say, and sort out your feelings. It’s OK to take the extra time to figure things out, or to keep exploring.

Be patient with the other person – they might be willing to accept it and at the same time be shocked or hurt because they did not expect it or they don’t understand it. Some people aren’t as exposed to alternative gender/sexualities so they know nothing about it, and all of this will be very new to them. If they aren’t willing to accept just yet, and they still love you (which they hopefully will), be patient as they try to come to terms with it. Remember, you didn’t throw your arms up the first day and exclaim with glee “I’m queer! yay!” If you did, great! But it probably took a while to get to this point.

This is the most important point. Be open to forgiving someone if they have reacted badly and apologized, or if they rejected you but then came to accept you, or they’re at least making an effort. People change, sometimes when you least expect it. It can take a few weeks, or a few years. It can be a superficial change, or a deep change. But it’s possible – I’ve seen it myself!

Feedback

Of course, my experience is quite limited to, well, my experience. And I’m still struggling with coming out everyday to different people. If anyone else has any other feedback we’d all greatly appreciate it.

Also stay tuned for more on the Coming Out series.

13 responses to “Coming Out: The Plan

  1. I like this post but I don’t necessarily think one ought to expect the worst. I think the “Don’t expect people to understand” might be an even better title for that point.

    I think that if you come in expecting the worst, you increase the chances that you’ll get the worst. For example, I’ve seen people expecting a bad outcome almost come across as apologetic in their coming-out letters, or talks. Kind of analogous to one who expects to fail at something. It’s almost a fait d’accompli that (s)he will.

    Oh, and I LOVE “Be prepared and look for people around who can support you. If you’re reading this, then you already know someone.” Love it. 🙂

  2. I’ve been thinking about this lately, and I’m a bit… frightened by the idea of coming out to anyone.

    Probably because I’ve never formed any close bonds with anyone; I don’t really have anyone in my life who I feel needs to know. I don’t date, I don’t form close or lasting friendships, I not really close to anyone in my family.

    And given the reaction my family has given to my hints, and more importantly their reactions to transgendered people they’ve encountered…

    I really don’t feel comfortable with the idea.

  3. @Teagan
    Thanks for stopping by! You make a good point – I guess this is just my general life philosophy infusing itself into everything. I believe it’s better to be overly pessimistic than overly optimistic. A better title might have been “Expect to be surprised” as this goes both ways, good and bad.

    @TomboySissie
    Don’t come out if you don’t feel comfortable. However, DO think of a plan, in the case that you face a situation where you are either outed, or someone confronts you, or you are forced to come out. An unwelcome outing can be terrible, but you can turn that around by simply having the right response in mind. Again, expect to be surprised!

  4. “Now, all of this does not discount spontaneous coming out – if you feel comfortable in the moment and it seems appropriate, go ahead and tell the person.”

    Like coming out to your hairdresser honey?

    “Expect to be surprised” I totally agree, but I also want to add that the more you prepare and think of the different outcomes the less you’ll be surprised.

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  6. With me I’ve only told one friend and my parents will try to keep trying to make me think its a phase i went through all this telling them i didnt accept their religion, i want to tell them but I’m afraid they won’t except me and will get angry

  7. i like this article; i feel like you pretty much covered everything, maddox. i agree that “expect to be surprised” is a better than “expect the worst”.

    recently, i came out as genderqueer to my parents and i was shocked by how well they took it. they don’t get it, but they accept it. YAY! they’ve been calling me by my new-ish, gender-neutral name and they’ve been using “ze” pronouns for me! what more could a kitty ask for?

    • WOW, this sounds great, congratulations! Yeah, people can often surprise you in good ways too, and it’s nice to hear positive stories like yours.

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  9. I’ve been cruising around checking out coming out stories/issues/etc., and I dig what you’ve written. I am WAY out as queer, but not out as Trans with the exception of a few very close friends. I am a huge proponent of being out and I hate that I am being such a hypocrite, but I am completely freaked out.

    I do expect the worst. I hope for the best, but expect the worst. My family is my biggest pain point. I can never guess how they will react about anything.

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  11. Pingback: Coming Out as Trangender, Genderqueer, and/or Non-Binary Masterpost | Marilyn Roxie·

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