To come out or not to come out

Whether to talk to others about sexual orientation is such a personal decision. There can be many pressures but ultimately the choice has to be emotionally right for the individual.

Let’s just unravel, ‘coming out’. It is unique to each individual, for some it might be identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, queer; but for others, it might not be a label or identity it could be a ‘coming out’ as being in love with or in a relationship with a specific person.

The other thing about ‘coming out’ is that it is never complete. Coming out is not a one time, one-off event. You might build yourself up to tell people who are important to you but that does not mean the world then knows and in many areas, the world will still hold the assumption of heterosexuality.   

Coming out does not have to be total. It can be partial. Close family might know sexual orientation but not extended family, friends and family may know but not the workplace.

Things to think about;

  • Safety, it doesn’t matter what laws are out there you know your family, your community, your workplace better than anybody else. Ensure your situation is safe, that coming out is not going to make you homeless, destitute, emotionally more vulnerable. Think of strategies you can put in place to keep safe.
  • Timing, related to safety is timing. The time has to be right for you not related to pressure from others to come out or not.
  • You may be rejected.
  • You may feel overwhelmed with the pain of not feeling true to yourself.
  • Influence of media and experiences of others. There are many media stories about difficult experiences that people who are part of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other religious groups have experienced. There are documentaries about homophobia in specific communities’ ethnic, sports communities etc. This does not mean your experience is going to be difficult. There are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, black, footballers, rugby players people of all groups who have come out and been accepted and lots of accepting people. Only you know your family and community.
  • Your relationship. Whether to come out or not is your choice but if you are in a long-term relationship/s consider how this might affect your partner/s and think about the strategies you can put in place that can create an emotionally healthy relationship/s.
  • Anxiety. Are your fears greater than the reality?
  • How do you communicate what you want to say? Maybe you have adult children or an ex-spouse and you are worried that they will assume your earlier relationships were a lie? Maybe you don’t identify as gay or bisexual you just love this person and want to communicate that.
  • Internalised homophobia can be a barrier to coming out because internalising all the negatives you may have heard over the years can affect self-acceptance.
  • If you don’t come out consider how that is going to impact on time spent with family and friends. Are you going to hide photographs every time your mother comes around or never invite her to your house? Work out strategies so this does not impact on relationships.
  • Worries your close family might have about what others will think and how to work through this.
  • Family or friends might need time to process the information due to their expectations not because of you and it does not mean they do not love and accept you.
  • Family or friends may ask questions and make comments that seem ignorant, intrusive or inappropriate. Protect yourself while also responding patiently to genuine lack of understanding from people who want to accept.  

Trust yourself and your own choice whatever that may be.  

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Alsager, Cheshire, ST7
Written by Jacqueline Karaca, M.Sc. Hons Counselling Psych; B.Sc.Hons Psychology MBACP Reg
Alsager, Cheshire, ST7

Jacquie Karaca is a psychotherapist and author. She practices individual and relationship counselling in Alsager.

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