Coming In – You Should Come In Before You Come Out
Definition: “Coming in” is the process of discovering ones self-identity and gender expression.
Most are familiar with the term “coming out,” where an individual begins disclosing his/her sexual identity and gender expression to others but the process begins with self-discovery or by “coming in.”
Like coming out, coming in is an ongoing process and not a one-time event. Discovering ones self-identity and gender expression can take time. According to medical site WebMD, “There is about a two-year period of time for many youth during which they self identify as non-heterosexual––but they tend to keep this information to themselves.”
Many people discover their same-sex attractions, bisexuality and gender expression during the coming in process; however, coming in doesn’t always begin during adolescence. A person can come in later in life (high school, college, post-education) depending on a number of factors such as an individual’s level of self-acceptance, family life and other environments.
Coming Out: Step by Step
What does it mean to come out?
Coming out is the process of personally accepting your sexuality and disclosing it to yourself, family, co-workers and friends. Coming out is different for every gay or bisexual person since there are varying degrees of sexuality (see Kinsey Scale) and the circumstances that surround our lifestyles differ.
Coming out is a confusing time for many people. Accepting your sexuality (or coming out to yourself) can bring about a number of fears. Will your family or friends stop loving you? Will you ever get married or have children? Will you be discriminated against or made fun of? These are all valid concerns mainly rooted in the fear of the unknown; which is why many reference coming out as being reborn. This is an opportunity for you to look introspectively and re-evaluate who you are and who you want to be.
Create a personal inventory when coming out.
Sure, some gay people experience rejection when they come out, but many also find a loving and accepting support system, leading to a fulfilling gay lifestyle. Even so, happiness starts from within. And getting to know yourself is a key part of the process.
Though being gay doesn’t define you, it is a new part of your life. You can still be the same person you’ve always been, but take some “me” time to evaluate your transition. You don’t have to become a complete hermit, but concentrate on your own well being and feelings. This will make you stronger, more confident and sure of yourself. Learn as much as you can about yourself and what YOU want your gay lifestyle to be.
Take a personal inventory of your life. Write down any anger, resentments, fears and guilt that you may have about your existing life. Don’t forget the positive characteristics that also make you who you are today. Once you’ve done that, list your life goals, priorities and the things that make you happy (getting married, having children, being single, enjoying nature, art, dancing, etc.). What you are identifying is what kind of gay person you want to be.
This may seem like a silly exercise at first, but will be beneficial in the long run. Forgive yourself for any anger, resentment and guilt you may have for yourself and others and concentrate on your positive qualities. Create a new life for yourself by shaping it around your new life goals. Even as a gay person these things are possible!
Know that you are not alone.
It doesn’t matter if you live in a small town or a large metropolitan city, nothing can be more isolating than first coming out. You can be surrounded by familiar people and still feel you are the only one that is “different.” We’ve all felt these feelings when first coming out and there are millions more just like you that are currently feeling the same. There are many resources, such as gay community centers and gay online communities, where you can find others dealing with similar issues.
Deal with stereotypes, discrimination and hate against gays.
Many gay men don’t fit into existing stereotypes associated with queer people, but feel the pressure to do so by society or even other gay people. Rest assured, the gay community is just as diverse as any other community and each gay man is an individual.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t always prevent things like name-calling. You may be thinking whoever coined the term “words will never hurt me” obviously was never called a queer in a crowded room, but you do have an opportunity to take control of the situation. Maybe not by force or that cute one liner, but by protecting your own emotions and dealing with the situation that preserves your self esteem and your safety. Tune out others who may be around. Any person worth your friendship will see the haters for what they are- cowards. Even amongst laughs try not to feed into the stereotypes (learn about internalized homophobia). Be proud of the person you are and know that your offender’s comments or actions are based on their lack of understanding and fear, not your deficiency. Stand tall or flee the scene, just make safety (and not your pride) your top priority. Sometimes the bravest of the battle is the one who can walk away from the ignorance. Seek solace in those around you that do accept you and always try and prevent a gay bashing.
Know that there are also a number of national gay organizations that lobby against discrimination and defamation.
Tell family and friends you’re gay when you’re ready.
Every gay or bisexual man considers how their family and friends will react to the news that they are gay. Will your family reject you? Will your friends suddenly feel uncomfortable? Will you lose good friends or family members? These are valid questions that we must consider and unfortunately, there is no way to predict how your loved ones will react to your sexuality. The most important thing to consider is your own health and well being.
Come out to family and friends at a pace that makes YOU comfortable. There is no set time line or proper order of disclosure and each person’s situation is different. Nonetheless, the one common thread amongst gay men is the liberation they feel once they no longer have to hide their feelings. Keeping your sexuality buried can be devastating to your stability in the long run.
Surround yourself with as many positive influences, just in case your folks don’t take the news so well. Try and educate your family about your lifestyle and find a support program at a local gay community center.
Don’t give up on marriage or children.
Many of us grow up with dreams of a happy committed relationship and a house full of children. Contrary to popular belief, being gay does not condemn you to a life alone without kids. Gay marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships is afforded to gays in many countries and states. And though legal protection is best, many gay men around the world have families that include stable and long-term relationships and natural-born or adopted children.
Learn about the many places where gay marriage is legal and how to become a gay parent.
Learn about gay love, relationships and sex.
Gay men share unique experiences when it comes to gay love, relationships and sex. Without societal “norms” for gay people, some can feel isolated or confused when it comes to matters of the heart. Here are a few resources to help guide you toward healthy gay love and relationships:
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Coming out is an experienced shared by many gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender people. You are not alone and there is help available.
There are many resources available for you and your family and friends. Browse through the Gay Life site or the discussion forum for advice and information. If you still don’t find the answers to your questions, feel free to contact your Gay Life Guide with any concerns or just to say hello. Happy coming out and congratulations on this major life step!
Top 4 Ways You Shouldn’t Come Out
Coming out isn’t a Nascar race. There is no penalty for entering too late; there is no checker flag signifying the end; nor are you left behind if you don’t enter the race going 200 miles per hour. There is no one way to come out, but there are ways you can avoid some of the pain and drama many experience coming out to family, friends and coworkers. Avoid coming out in:
1. In anger.
Emotionally charged situations are unpredictable and actions in anger are often irrational. I came out to my dad in the midst of an argument and the situation only got worse. I was so angry I didn’t have the chance to truly express how I felt; and he was so taken aback that he completely shut it out- only for it to come up later. When you come out with a clear mind, you maintain control of the situation and express the things you need to express, all while respecting the other person.
2. As revenge.
Having the gay card in your pocket is like having the only nuclear bomb in a war against your homophobic neighbor. Your same-gender loving feelings are a part of you and should be disclosed under your terms. Why invite negativity upon yourself or share such dear details of your life in a bout of payback? If someone is slinging insults or you know they hate gays, let them have their reality. The best way to combat ignorance is to let them witness your world surrounded by love and acceptance.
3. Through a third party.
Third party news is always a bad idea. Facts and feelings can get twisted from person to person, which is why hearsay doesn’t even stand up in court. Sometimes your news will leak to others through gossip, but your loved ones will appreciate hearing it directly from you. Don’t get anyone else involved or waste time chasing the rumor mill. Important information such as this should be handled person to person. If a face to face meeting is not within your comfort zone, write a personal letter.
4. When you’re not ready.
Coming out should happen on your schedule. Of course, you can’t control whether someone finds out through other means, but you can talk about it at your own pace. There is no set age or circumstance that dictates when a person should come out. Let your feelings be your guide. I was tired of keeping such an important part of my life from those I cared about. So I started slowly telling friends one by one and then my family. Those that truly cared stuck by my side, despite the ones that didn’t.
The previous resources come from http://gaylife.about.com. I wish I had read some of these before I came out, because I know that I made many mistakes along the way. I hope you guys are able to learn from my experiences. I still have a few more resources to add and at least one more coming out story, though I may also add another about coming out in the workplace.