A recent study indicated that gay, lesbian and bisexual’s who decided that they should come out showed an increase in happiness and an improvement of their overall mental health. Of course, it goes without saying that there are many factors behind this, just as there are many levels of ‘outness’. Below, we go over the decision making process involved in coming out, and what may happen when you decide to do so.
For many people, coming out is a hard decision to make. They will be concerned as to how family and friends will react, and if coming out at a later stage of life, how their career may be affected. These are all legitimate concerns, and go in some way to explain part of the study. It is clear that if a lot of anxiety and stress has been building regarding whether to come out or not, there will be a certain degree of relief when it finally happens!
Why come out?
The reasons behind coming out vary from person to person. People mainly come out because they believe that they will be happier that way, whether through affirming their sexuality, no longer having to live with a secret or to be proud of who they are.
Who should be told?
This is the point where the ‘level of outness’ is first decided. Many gay people choose to tell someone outside of the family initially, first ensuring that they are open-minded, trustworthy and supportive. In this regard, some people actually decide to tell a counsellor first: these are professionals who are paid to listen and not cast judgement, and they can act as a great sounding board.
It is normally when the second or third person are told that will define what happens next. It is human nature to talk and chat, and many people find that in a relatively short time others may know about their sexuality without having actually spoken to them. At first, this may seem strange and induce a feeling of powerlessness, especially if there is negativity attached. However, there is very little that can be done about it, and most gay or lesbian people are prepared for some level of negativity no matter how wrong it may be.
When should the family be told?
This is perhaps the hardest decision of all. Many gay and lesbian individuals are split between telling their family face-to-face, and letting them find out through other means. Of course, it may be the case that family members knew all along or at least had some thoughts about it. Every family is different, as is every scenario involving coming out. Siblings are normally the first to be told, as they are generally closer. Parents can be more difficult depending on their own upbringing and world-wise open-mindedness.
Some gay men may have particular problems with their fathers, who somehow see it as a dent against their own manhood. It is important to remember that people’s initial reactions are just that – initial reactions. They are reacting within a split second to something that you have probably been thinking about for many months, so don’t judge them immediately! Many people just need a little time for things to digest, especially if what they thought was their stable world has been shook up a little.
Will coming out affect a career?
It would be nice to answer this question with a simple ‘no’. The reality is, though, that some people and professions do still carry prejudices with them. That said, people’s attitudes are very slowly changing, and non-discriminatory rights are enshrined in the law. Many people choose to keep their professional and private lives separate, and that can be said of both gay and straight people.
Concerned about your sexuality?
Talk to a gay counsellor based in London Waterloo and King’s Cross
Most gay and lesbian people experience not only a sense of relief when they have told others about their sexuality, but also a sense of euphoria. This is only natural after revealing something that may have been kept secret for a long period of time. As with any difficult decision, whether to come out or not has no right or wrong, and is down to the individual involved.
In this difficult circumstances, you may find that talking with a qualified Counsellor who can support you all the way can be very useful. I am a gay counsellor based in London Waterloo and London King’s Cross.
If you think that Counselling would be something useful for you, you can book an introductory counselling session in London Waterloo or King’s Cross. You can also use the contact form to ask me any question. I always aim to reply by email within 24 hours from initial enquiry .