Thinking About Coming Out? How Therapy Can Help In The Process
If you are discovering you’re a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, you might be feeling lost. Coming out and living openly as queer can be scary. In a heteronormative society like ours, a person is assumed to be straight and cisgendered unless they say otherwise. This puts a lot of pressure on closeted people or those questioning their identities. You might feel othered, different, or marginalized. But for LGBTQIA+ folks, coming out and owning their identity is a major step toward living truthfully and happily. If the process of coming out feels overwhelming for you, you might look toward therapy for help.
What it means to come out
Coming out, or revealing your gender identity or sexual orientation to people in your life, looks different for everyone. There is no right way to come out. Coming out can also be a lifelong process. It’s not always the case that you tell your parents you’re gay or trans and suddenly you’re done telling people. Often, any time you meet someone new or move to a new city, you’ll need to continue that process and have those conversations all over again.
What to think about before coming out
First, consider the time, context, and location you’re in. Are you living in a deeply religious rural area? Is your family conservative? Do you know anyone else who is gay, trans, bi, or lesbian? Has anything traumatic happened recently in your family, like a death or a natural disaster? You need to be honest and ask yourself whether coming out is safe at this time. If you need, wait until you’re living independently and aren’t relying on family for money, food, or housing. If you know any other queer folks, try to get advice about their own coming out process.
The first person you disclose your identity to should be someone you know will be supportive and affirming. As you continue telling people in your familial and social circle, tell them your boundaries. You might be willing to respectfully answer some invasive questions, but know which ones are hard limits for you. Prepare yourself for a variety of reactions. Some people will react positively, with joy, relief, acceptance, and support. Others might react negatively, with anger, grief, avoidance, offense, or shame. Have a list of trusted supportive people at hand who you can call when coming out to those whose reactions you can’t predict.
Ways therapy can help
Coming out can be an incredibly difficult process, particularly if your environment isn’t affirming or is unsafe. A therapist can be the affirming person you can trust through this transition stage in your life. You might be feeling anxiety, depression, gender dysphoria, internalized homophobia, or other stress responses to your situation. It’s best to navigate these mental health concerns with a licensed therapist. They can give you the tools to cope with your negative emotions in a healthy way. They’ll also help you learn self-acceptance and communication skills when dealing with those who might be unreceptive when you talk about your identity. A therapist who specializes in LGBTQIA+ issues will be the person best equipped to guide you through the process of coming out and owning your sexual and gender identity.
Finding a therapist
If you’re struggling with your identity and wondering how to start coming out, it might be a good idea to seek therapy. This is especially true if you feel no one else around you will be supportive yet. Through therapy, you can also connect with other queer community groups and nonprofit organizations to get involved with.
To find out more about how a licensed therapist can help you understand your identity and begin living your openly queer truth with LGBTQ Counseling, please reach out to us.