Exiting the Closet

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Dear Dr. Darcy:

I just got a girlfriend a little over a week ago. I really want to tell people about her outside of school, [including] my family. My mom is the only person in my family who knows that I'm pansexual. I can't tell my family because they are homophobic. They pretty much disowned my gay uncle. I'm sick of hiding my sexuality. I want to come out so bad. What do I do?

ANSWER

The decision to come out is a scary one.  No one wants to lose friends and family. The thing is, when you’re in the closet, you see the world through a lens of fear. Threats are everywhere, abandonment is a conversation away, and the culmination of these fears makes our relationship seem more fragile than they really are.

For most LGBT youth, the coming out conversation ranks as one of life’s most dreaded moments.  I don’t want to pollyana out on you. Sometimes we lose people by coming out, though thankfully, today, those losses tend to be temporary.  With that said, I want to encourage you to focus on what you’ll gain through coming out rather than what you may lose.  And I want to remind you that coming out is a process.

Few people come out to everyone in their lives at once. You’ve come out to your mother, which is great. Consider picking 1 friend to tell. If that goes well, in time, you might tell a cousin. I’m not sure of your age, but I’d strongly encourage you to wait until you’re financially independent and over 18 before making global announcements about your sexual identity to your family.

In closing I will tell you this: Of the people whose coming out I’ve witnessed, all attest to it being a life-altering experience. And as someone who’s lived with a shitload of family secrets, I can tell you that nothing unburdens quite like honesty. Whether you realize it or not, you’ve already begun the process of coming out. For now, focus on your girlfriend, enjoy this experience and choose your conversations carefully.

Writer’s stats: Female, Pansexual