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Coming out to others

You've told someone you're gay

You are either balancing on the edge of an erupting volcano or dancing with joy on the moon – or both!

Even if the experience wasn't as you expected, people describe a huge weight being lifted from their shoulders, of feeling euphoric and giggly and childlike again. Don’t feel guilty about it – go on and enjoy yourself, you deserve it.

The thrill of revealing something long kept hidden can give a tremendous sense of relief. Use this new found energy wisely and remember that close friends and family may be worried that you have changed out of all recognition.

In a Heartbeat | Beth David and Esteban Bravo | 31 Jul 2017 | 4m05s

Reassure them

Reassure them that nothing has really changed, only their perception of you. In fact after a while they may even realise that the ‘new’ you is better than the ‘old’ you. Most people will experience many positive reactions. For example, ‘We’re so pleased you could tell us’ or ‘Well, we had already guessed and were just waiting for you to say something’.

Some gay people have also met with the response, ‘So am I’. Equally, if it hasn’t gone too well – don’t lose heart.

Time is a great healer

Time is a great healer and things will get better. If you are experiencing rejection from close friends, ask yourself whether they were really so close if they couldn’t support you through this important part of your life? If your family is reacting badly, this is normal. They may be experiencing a whole range of emotions including shock, grief, guilt, blame, disappointment and lots of pain. Remember how long it took for you to come to terms with being gay.

Many parents will feel a loss in some way – perhaps of future grandchildren or weddings and other family gatherings. This can blur their happiness and their love for you. Here are a few examples of how parents and family can react negatively:

  • "My parents refused to talk about it. They dismissed it and said they didn’t want the subject brought up again. I decided that I was going to continue to live my life as a gay man. I stopped going home as often as I used to and attending family occasions. It is only now, three years later, that they have begun to broach the subject with me."
  • "My family say that they accept that I am gay but they don’t want to see me being affectionate with another man. They say that they won’t be able to cope with it."
  • "I was at a wedding recently and everyone was there with their partners. I was upset that I couldn’t bring mine. Everyone asked the usual embarrassing questions about girlfriends and I just had to smile and make excuses. I didn’t want to row with my family about it, but it’s just not fair."

At the end of the day, your parents are still your parents and, in time, few reject their children because they are gay. If they go quiet on you, give them time to react and think about what you have told them. If they ask lots of questions, it’s a good sign. It may help to think of it as though it is in your interests to respond to them – they are likely to be the same ones that you have asked yourself many times along the way.

If things are so bad that you feel like giving up with the whole process of coming out, it’s important to talk to someone about your fears and concerns. It’s probably better to persevere and keep going - after all, you have come this far and in many ways it would be difficult or impossible to go back now. The next person you talk to will probably give you a huge hug and say that they were relieved that you had found the courage to tell them, and that they had suspected that something may have been on your mind for a long time.

Understanding | Terry Rayment | Washington Reader Award 2016

“It wasn't easy telling my family that I'm gay. I made my carefully worded announcement at Thanksgiving. It was very Norman Rockwell. I said, "Mom, would you please pass the gravy to a homosexual?' She passed it to my father. A terrible scene followed.”

Bob Smith, American comedian and author

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