Dear Dr. McGuire,
I recently have come out to myself. While I’m happy I’ve realized who I am, my job and my family make it hard for me to come out of the closet right now. Any advice?
Dear Queer Comrade,
Coming out is a huge journey. Whenever I talk to people about their coming out experiences, I always ask first how they came out to themselves. Coming in to your own truth is the hardest journey of all. Sometimes we come out to ourselves and immediately tell the world, and other times, we don’t, won’t, or can’t—and that is more than okay. Here are some ideas to help you navigate this chapter of your coming out journey.
Make Your Own Timeline
There is a lot of pressure to be out, proud, and authentic. While doing so can be great, it doesn’t work for everyone in every situation. Choosing to stay in the closet—for safety, mental health, or other reasons—does not make you less worthy than someone who is out. You may feel like there’s a time stamp on needing to tell the world how you identify and who you love, but that simply isn’t true. Instead, try setting a date (such as a year from now) by which you’ll come out to three people who you deeply trust. Or, try giving yourself a benchmark—when you start attending local queer events, you’ll also come out at work. Be flexible with these timelines, though. If that time arrives and you feel scared or overwhelmed, adjust accordingly. Your queerness isn’t going to expire, so don’t rush it.
Find Other Ways to Explore Who You Are
Coming out to your friends, family, and co-workers is only one way to live your truth. Since that isn’t an option right now, I suggest exploring your new awakening by reading queer authors, watching queer movies, learning about queer history, and finding a confidential LGBTQ-competent counselor. Take a deeper dive into your inner identity—gain a better understanding of what your identity means to you before sharing it with the world. Online spaces can sometimes be scary, but there are plenty of great publications, forums and YouTube channels that are helpful and encouraging. As a queer person who is not yet out of the closet, online spaces can be great in terms of anonymity, so start by dipping your toes into those waters.
It’s Okay to Go Back Into the Closet
Maybe you tried coming out—you told a friend, or word got out at work. Some people might have taken it well, but others didn’t. Even in 2017, coming out can mean losing work, family, or your housing situation. You might face physical violence or loss of income or of your children. This is no joke. As a result, you might decide to outwardly deny your identity. It’s a horrible feeling—emotionally crushing, even. But it’s completely okay—you have to be safe and secure, above all. Nothing is forever—you can go in and out of the closet as necessary. That doesn’t mean you won’t be riding on the front float of the Word Pride parade one day! Wherever you are on this journey, love and take care of yourself. We, the queer world around you, want you to be here. We can’t wait to meet you one day—whenever the moment is right.
In sex positivity,