June may be over, but don’t put away your rainbow chaps yet!
June is historically Pride month, when we recall the struggles and celebrate the progress of the LGBTQA+ community. This is also a time when some members of the community choose to come out and declare themselves to the world.
Yet coming out is not limited to one month a year, and can occur at any time, in any place. Coming out can be exhilarating, terrifying, confusing, and joyful all at the same time.
So when is the right time to come out?
You may see yourself reflected in something that stirs the knowledge deep inside you. You may find that you love something or someone so strongly that you need to proclaim it to the world!
Perhaps you always knew deep down that you liked girls, or that your gender identity is not what you were assigned at birth. Or maybe you saw a film that exactly portrayed the way you felt about your best friend, or your best friend’s boyfriend, or your veterinarian. Or maybe you didn’t know where you fit in, but felt like the LGBTQIA+ community might be for you. Or maybe you wanted to be around people who felt like you, and who affirmed you as you really know or think yourself to be.
There are so many wonderful and glorious reasons for coming out and so many members and communities under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella! We have made tremendous progress as a country and a people in recent decades. Still, in 2022, there are a plethora of anti-trans, anti-LGBTQIA+ and other hostile bills, laws, and forms of legislation pending and codified into law, with more on the way.
The right time to come out is still when you say it is, but you should consider additional challenges. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community are still at risk of job loss, homelessness, harassment, violence, and even death.
Members of the LGBTQIA+ community experience higher rates of poverty, unemployment, and stigma. LGBTQIA+ people are nearly four times more likely to experience violence than non-LGBTQIA+. For the transgender members of the community, the reality is even worse. Nearly half of the transgender community have been harassed and discriminated against at their places of employment.
Clearly, there are serious concerns and a lot of work to be done. Still, members of the community do find their way towards coming out. Expressing your own identity, or searching for one that reflects your truth, are powerful needs, and despite the very real concerns we face, coming out is still something that is life-affirming.
The right time to come out is when you understand the potential risks, financial, familial, and otherwise. If you are BIPOC, female, trans, non-binary, disabled, or a member of further marginalized group, you may need to be extra careful and have additional support.
The right time to come out is when you have a safe and affirming place for respite. The right time to come out is when you have significant support from your family (chosen or otherwise), friends, and community.
Therapy is an excellent choice to assist with feelings of doubt, fear, and general ambivalence. Therapy can also offer guidance post-coming out, when you may need to navigate new or uncertain situations. A good therapist will offer support and affirmation for your decisions, and ongoing advice for whatever journey you take. Most therapists are LGBTQIA+ affirming, but you should find one that speaks to you and your journey.
You may feel that you need to let go of a secret, can no longer deny your true self, and that you need to live your life fully and in your own reality.
The right time to come out is when it seems too risky not to; when the fear of doing so is outweighed by the terror of holding your true self back.
The right time to come out means you may want to do some watching, listening, or reading! Dig into our long and varied history. There are, and have always been, so many of us, and we have left a ton of information. Seek out some movies, podcasts, books, magazines and so on.
As hetersexuality is the default in our world, you may be presumed to be cisgender and straight most of your life. Subsequently, you may be presented with opportunities to come out all the time—at the dentist, at school, in your apartment building, at the DMV, to your neighbors, your airplane seatmate, and so on.
Ultimately, the right time to come out is when you are ready and surrounded by the love and welcome of a large, diverse, raucous and joyous community that very much wants you as a member.
If you're looking to speak with a therapist about coming out or any other feelings or experiences you'd like to process, Mary Cotter, LMSW and author of this post is accepting new clients in New York. Schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation with Mary today!
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Mary Cotter, LMSW is a MyWellbeing therapist that offers over 20 years of experience in non-profit social service work. Mary is committed to providing a safe, welcoming space with the goal of assisting you on your journey towards healing.
Mary is currently accepting new clients in the state of New York.