Coming out from the closet can be an experience that helps you to explore your identity and to embrace your sexual orientation. However, it could be challenging as you have to move beyond the expectations of your society. When you have the support of a community, the struggles in coming out would be lower.
When you consider the political stance of coming out, it heads back to the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion. During this time, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn fought against a police raid. Several riots and resistance happened as part of that. This event paved the way for leading an annual march and celebrating “Gay Pride.”
Besides, the Gay Liberation March of June 1970 also has a tremendous role when we look at the events historically. One of the organizers stated that the LGBTQ+ community would gain rights once “we stop hiding in the closet.”
However, each individual coming out from the closet would be different, and each person can take their own time. But, coming out can help you in improving your emotional and mental health. Here are five things that you need to know about coming out and embracing LGBTQ identity.
Selecting the Right Time and Place for Coming Out from Closet
There is no such thing as the “perfect time” for coming out. It would depend and vary from one person to another. The perfect time for you to come out would be when you feel it is the right time for you to share. You can wait for the people you want to share this exciting information with to be in a position willing to listen and relaxed.
If you are still in school, it could be an opportunity to embrace your LGBTQ identity. But, it can also be a challenging time as all the students might not be in a position to understand it. Hence, you can seek support and focus on building your mental health during this time.
Since coming out is a gradual process, you have to decide when you wish to come out. You can finalize when, where, and to whom you want to come out. For instance, you might be ready to come out to your family and not your friends. It can happen the other way round as well. Remember that there is nothing to worry and you can always take your time.
You Can Choose with Whom You Wish to Come Out to
Choosing the first person with whom you wish to come out is important. It has to be someone supportive. When you talk with someone you trust, it would be helpful for you as well. You can wait till you have attained the emotional support you require from your friend or someone you trust. As per the Pew Research Study¹, 86% of the respondents spoke with their friends about their sexual orientation. Among the participants, 54% of people stated that people who are important to them know about their identity.
Even then, coming out from the closet can be challenging. Although you have to be compassionate, it doesn’t mean that you have to tolerate homophobic verbal abuses, which can be toxic. You have to draw the line and seek support when you feel necessary.
Evaluating the Different Stages of Embracing LGBTQ Identity
One of the most crucial factors of coming out is ‘coming out to yourself.’ Each individual will have a different journey for coming out of the closet and would occur at different ages. In simple terms, it is a continuing and lifelong process as well.
However, Vivienne Cass², a sexuality specialist, developed the Cass theory in 1979. As per this model, Cass formed six different stages while considering the LGBTQ+ developmental process. Here are the six stages in the Cass theory.
During this stage, you would be wondering if you belong to the LGBTQ community or not. Here, you could be in a state of denial and confusion.
Here, you would be accepting your sexual orientation as a possibility.
In this stage, the focus is on tolerating your identity. You would be facing an increased sense of isolation. However, you would start building connections with others belonging to the LGBTQ+ community.
Here, you would focus on resolving your identity crisis and accepting yourself.
You would be feeling proud of your identity. Now, you would start taking part in LGBTQ+ culture-based activities.
Here, there is an integration of your sexual identity with other aspects of life. Now, you would be moving away from your anger towards heterosexuality. There would be a decrease in the intensity of your pride.
Coming out from the closet is a long process because many people believe themselves to be heterosexuals. Hence, it would take time to embrace your sexual orientation. However, it is highly subjective as well. Remember, there is no stipulated time frame for discovering your identity and embracing yourself. Everyone’s journey is unique, and you can take your time.
Understanding the Relevance of Coming Out from Closet
Coming out and embracing your identity can help in improving your mental health. It can reduce anxiety and depression. You would no longer be leading two different lives, and coming out would act as a developmental milestone for you.
As per a study³, those people who have embraced their LGBTQ identity felt lower HIV risk. It shows that they have a better understanding of STIs and STDs, which can be highly beneficial.
During a research study conducted by the University of Montreal⁴ with 46 LGBTQ + participants, there was an improvement in the mental health and biological health of 31 participants who came out. Whereas on the other hand, the remaining 15 people who remained closeted felt more psychological concerns.
Seeking Support When Necessary
As per a survey conducted by Stop Bullying⁵, 84% of the LGBT student respondents faced bullying from school. Apart from that, they faced verbal harassment and physical assaults as well. Since coming out can be challenging and liberating, it is always best to seek safe spaces that support your wellbeing.
- Centrelink is a non-governmental organization that focuses on advancing the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals. They have recently launched a support program for the LGBTQ+ community.
- COLAGE is yet another organization that works on empowering youth in LGBTQ+ families. They continue to support marriages and equality fights for the LGBTQ+ community.
- Trevor Project is yet another support group that offers crisis and suicide prevention services, especially for LGBTQ+ people under 25 years. They offer training and in-person ally and care programs.
There would be local organizations and communities around you as well. You can always gain support from a platform like us, which strives forward to create a judgment-free sex-positive ecosystem. Hence, coming out from the closet can be a liberating process that helps you to embrace your LGBTQ+ identity.
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