When Love Island’s Curtis Pritchard was asked by the hosts of Good Morning Britain recently to ‘label’ his sexuality they were effectively outing him on national TV. This got me thinking about coming out in general and I wanted to share some insights which I have learned from working with the incredible GenderGP community – as well as a little of my own insight as a specialist counsellor working with gender variant people.
1. Try not to overcomplicate things. Remember the person your coming out to might be in shock and unable to take in what you are trying to say. Keep it simple and straight to the point, this will also help to minimise any misunderstanding.
2. When coming out to someone who is really close to you, remember your doing so says a lot about the strength of your relationship. Talk about how much you want them in your life and how important it is to stay friends. If it’s family, remind them how much their love means to you and that you feel able to tell them because they have given you the strength to do this. Coming out is not just about you, it affects everyone in your life.
3. Talking about something so deep and personal is not easy, in fact it can be traumatic. As such, it can be easier to write it down, in a letter or even a text. Trauma can make us feel sick or even lead to a panic attack, if this happens it can make the situation look and feel far worse than it is. If writing your feelings is the right solution for you, treat it as the opening of a conversation, rather than simply laying things out. There is nothing worse than finding the courage to come out then no one talks about it, like it never happened. This may offer some relief in the short term, but in the long term it leads to confusion and frustration.
4. There is never a perfect time to come out, so pick your moment and go for it. The more you put it off the greater your anxiety will grown and the harder it will be.
5. Remember, this might not come as a shock! Your loved ones may well have guessed (they know you well) or they may have stumbled upon the news via some other means and may be waiting for you to open up to them. Make sure you get your message across in the way you want and dispel any preconceived ideas they may have.
6. If you have someone particularly close to you who you feel will be a good ally, speak to them first. They could become an advocate or a source of support for coming out to family, being with you when you feel ready to share your news.
7. Prepare the ground. Arrange a time to talk, make it clear you have something important to share and that you need a safe space. Give a warning shot ‘I’ve got something important to tell you’ but try not to over-dramatise.
8. Give it time. Experience tells us that people have an enormous capacity to change when sexuality and gender identity enters their world, they can go from bigot to advocate in time, allow loved ones that time.
9. Be prepared for rejection, if it goes badly, make sure you have a safe space to retreat to. But remember, it might come as a shock and some people might just need time, your disclosure going badly needn’t mean the end of the relationship.
10. Do not trust Google to lead your loved ones to affirmative material, be prepared and print out what you think represents what you are trying to say and leave it for them to read.
While it may be tempting, do not compromise yourself or your needs to make it easier for others.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this blog post and you would like more information, or if you would like to speak to someone, please visit our Help Centre to access our team of gender specialists.
Thanks to Joshua Ness for sharing their work on Unsplash