Tips for Exiting The Closet

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Welcome to Tuesday’s Tips, the one-day a week I dispense useful, actionable and empowering tips!

Let’s face it ~ the coming out conversation is perhaps the most dreaded conversations a child can contemplate initiating or a parent can imagine being on the receiving end of.  Still, people manage to get through it as every out person can attest to.

With that said, there needs to be an element of strategy employed so as to minimize drama. Have a look at my list of tips below and feel free to FB or Tweet me your additional tips!

1. Timing is Imperative. Most people don’t think about coming out until a holiday or a family event is on the horizon because such events seem like a good time to introduce the person they’re dating to their family.  I cannot overstate the importance of having this conversation in advance of any holiday or family event, and by in advance, I mean a month before, not the night before.

Believe it or not, Thanksgiving is one of the most common days to come out. Do not join the ranks of the drama kings & queens who make this rookie mistake. Parents and family members deserve a minute to wrap their heads around the fact that you are not straight. Let them do this at a time when they don’t have the added pressure of Grandma Millie coming to Thanksgiving dinner.

Generally speaking, you should give family members at least a month in advance of any family event at which you plan to bring your sig other.

2. Baby Steps. When I came out, I did not put an ad in the New York Times style section. I had a conversation in the middle of the night with my mother, on her bed, and gave her a couple of hours to ask me any questions she had (the questions did not end that night…).   A few weeks later, I told my sister.

The reactions of my family members varied from my mother’s, “How is this possible? Think of all the boys you dated in high school!” to my sister’s, “Darce, I’ve known this for years. I’ve just been waiting for you to realize it.”

The point is that coming out is a process. It’s a journey. Generally speaking, it’s not one conversation. It’s a series of conversations.  For me it’s been dozens. So do things slowly, knowing that you’re coming out the minute you’ve told your first friend.

3. Be Financially Realistic. You need to assess where you are in your life. If you still rely on your parents for financial support (or for shelter), consider postponing the conversation until you are more independent, and by more independent I mean 100% financially independent. You don’t need the added worry of not being able to pay rent.

4. Choose Your Fuel with Care. Do not allow a burst of anger to fuel this disclosure. Coming out should be a positive conversation, at least on your end. Too many people rely on anger to override their fear of sharing something that they believe won’t be well-received. Don’t make this mistake. Choose your moment carefully and make sure that your intention behind it is a positive one.

5. Expect Questions. They will usually have questions. Be prepared to answer them. Some of the questions will be dumb.  All deserve to be answered with patience and respect.  You may be the first gay person they (consciously) know. You have an obligation to educate them which can only happen if they are free to ask questions.

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Twitter: @DrDarcySterling