An LGBTQ guide: Coming out of the closet in the internet age
Coming of age isn’t a celebration now; it’s an Instagram post. Nevertheless, for people who prefer the old-fashioned way, here’s a step-by-step guide to coming out of the closet with confidence
The internet may have played the largest role in shaping our journey of self-discovery, and opening the doors to gender and sexual identity. For a generation that has meet-cutes on Snapchat and flirts entirely with memes, technology has revolutionised the coming-out experience.
Coming of age isn’t a celebration now; it’s an Instagram post. Nevertheless, for people who prefer the old-fashioned way, here’s a step-by-step guide to coming out of the closet with confidence.
a) Accept yourself: The hardest part about coming out is accepting you as ‘you’ – which is also why the most important person to come out to is yourself. When you begin to realise that you are different, it’s natural to experience feelings of shame, fear and self-hatred. If you can, tie it all together and courier it halfway across the world. And don’t put a return address on it. The key is to be kind and patient with yourself, as you would with your neighbour’s puppy. Remember that it’s completely normal to have your own path of self-discovery. It might involve ice-cream. It might involve a string of boys. It might involve a crate of wine. It might involve all of the above.
Once you can look in the mirror and confidently say, ‘I’m gay’ or ‘I’m bisexual’ or ‘I’m trans’, you’ve won half the battle. Now go win the other half.
b) Educate yourself: Make the internet your best friend, and go seek answers for all the questions you might have. Spend hours reading up about alternate sexuality. Look for LGBTQIA+ communities in your neighbourhood. Reach out to them. Reach out to others like you (because yes, the world is teeming with fabulous folk). Soak it all in.
Or, read this book.
c) Don’t force yourself: If you don’t think this is the right time to take the plunge into the fag end of the pool (pun intended), then don’t. Trust your instincts everytime. The key to coming out comfortably is to not force yourself out of the closet. There’s always tomorrow. Or next month. Or even next year.
Come out because you want to, not because you have to. Take the plunge when you feel like it.Just know that it will be refreshing.
d) Start with someone who matters: Make a long list of all the people you love. Ask yourself who’d be the kindest and the most supportive. Ask yourself who won’t punch you in the face. Ask yourself who’d plant a kiss on your cheek.
It could be your sister. It could be your mother. It could be your best friend. It could be an uncle. It could be your favourite teacher from school or even your chemistry lab partner.
It doesn’t matter who it is, as long as you trust them. Go ahead and tell them. Be honest and open about your feelings. Enjoy the moment. Repeat the process till you’ve told everyone who counts.
e) Have a safety plan ready: Coming out can be an emotionally charged experience, because you can’t always predict how people will react. Sometimes people will support you with all their love, and sometimes they will not (at least in the beginning). Have a contingency plan ready for that worst-case scenario – what if you are thrown out of your home, cut off from your family, or cut off from your family inheritance? Have your best friends on speed dial. Stall the process a bit if you think you are at high risk (especially when you’re dependent on your family for food, shelter or education).
Know your options (even though it will all work out in the end). And if you’re old enough, remember that this is what your savings are for.
f) Figure out the first conversation: Do you have the conversation at home or at a café? Should you do it on the phone or through a text? Should you be wearing your lucky socks or a bulletproof vest?
Just like there’s no right way to eat a burger, there’s no right wayto come out – it’s all about creating a comfortable environment where both of you can have an open, honest conversation and feel snug in a blanket of feelings.
Ideally, you want the person to be relaxed – so try and avoid coming out to someone when they are stressed, busy or doing something that demands their full attention, like driving or saving a baby from a burning building. After that, all you have to do is...
g) Believe: Coming out can be stressful, so the least you can do is be nice to yourself. You might not believe in Santa Claus, global warming or the current government, but you have to start learning how to believe in yourself. Only then will people believe in you.
(Excerpted with permission from ‘Get Out: The Gay Man’s Guide to Coming Out and Going Out’ by Aniruddha Mahale. Published by HarperCollins Publishers India)
(This was first published in National HeraldLGBTQIA+ communities on Sunday)